State of the media

William A. Rugh, in Arab Mass Media (2004), characterizes the Bahraini press as loyalist, meaning that “the newspapers are consistently loyal to and supportive of the regime in power despite the fact that they are privately owned.” Since the 1991 Gulf War there have been no media censors in place and no interference in journalism, but self-censorship is prevalent.

Print press
The first daily in Bahrain was established in 1976. Today Bahrain has eight daily newspapers, six Arabic and two English.

The six daily Arabic papers support fundamental government policies and journalists exercise self-censorship. Taboos that are respected by the press are the ruler, Islam, inciting civil unrest or sectarianism, insulting the head of state of a friendly country, and the Hiwar island issue.

In 2002, an independent newspaper, Al Wasat, was set up. The paper is broadly sympathetic to the Shia Islamist opposition. Akhbar Al Khaleej is close to Bahrain's Left and Arab nationalist strands. Al-Ayam is seen as pro-government, with its proprietor an advisor to the King.

Political associations publish newsletters that are regarded as periodicals.

The government imposes strict censorship on privately owned print media.

Audiovisual media
The Bahrain Radio and Television Corporation, a former government organ that became an independent public organization by royal decree in 1993, dominates audiovisual media in Bahrain. The Ministry of Information controls the broadcasting bodies.

Online media

According to recent estimates about 150,000 Bahrainis (20 percent of the total population) are using the internet.

Despite the fact that the market for telecommunication in Bahrain was liberalized in 2002, Internet provider Batelco still dominates the market. Since 2002, seventeen companies have obtained licenses to provide Internet services, but many of these still face problems. In 2002, an independent authority was set up to protect consumers’ interests and encourage competition.

The government routinely blocks political websites and blogs. It also has blocked Google Earth and Google Video. The Bahrain internet community is nevertheless very active.

News agencies
There are two news agencies in Bahrain.

Media organizations
The Bahrain Journalists’ Association was established in 2002 and is a member of the International Federation of Journalists.

Media policies
The 2002 Press Law 47 is viewed as restrictive because it calls for the prosecution of those who criticize the head of state or Islam, or “threaten national security”. It imposes prison sentences from six months to five years for journalists who breach the law and its wording is vague. The current law includes seventeen categories of offenses and leaves journalists open to a high degree of judicial harassment. There is a lack of clear rules and regulations for journalists.

Media developments and trends
After the new Emir assumed power on March, 6, 1999 the government allowed the press greater latitude. However, the Information Ministry still exercises extensive control over the media and newspapers also practice self-censorship.