MANAMA: Bahrain has suspended local operations of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera and barred a crew from traveling to the Gulf Arab state, accusing the channel of flouting press rules.
Al Jazeera, with a record of tense relations with Arab states over its coverage of sensitive political topics, has aired programs on poverty and the treatment of Asian labourers, both sensitive matters in Bahrain.
"Bahrain has temporarily frozen the office of the Qatari Al Jazeera Satellite TV Channel for breaching the professional media norms and flouting the laws regulating the press and publishing," the official Bahrain News Agency said, without giving details.
Officials at Bahrain’s Ministry of Information either declined to comment or could not be reached.
A spokesman for Qatar-based Al Jazeera declined to comment on the reasons for the suspension of its Bahraini office.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticised the ban, noting it came one day after Al Jazeera aired a programme about poverty in Bahrain.
"We are dismayed to see Bahrain attempt to muzzle the media simply because it does not like what is being reported," Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, said in a statement.
Observers say the move, while likely sparked by the Al Jazeera report, may have also reflected tensions between Qatar and Bahrain that have persisted since the two countries settled a dispute over the Hawar islands in 2001. –Additional reporting by Tamara Walid and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai