Bahrain charges and releases American journalists held during protests

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A protester wearing a gas mask takes part in anti-government protests in Sitra. Four US journalists were arrested at the protest. Photograph: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Freelance reporter Anna Day and three cameramen detained while covering anniversary of Shia uprising

Four American journalists who were arrested on Sunday during protests marking the fifth anniversary of a Shia-led uprising in Bahrain have been charged and released, a prosecutor has said.

Freelance reporter Anna Day and her camera crew were charged with illegally assembling with intent to commit a crime. A friend of Day had said the journalists were simply doing their job and denied that they took part in any “illegal behaviour”.
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It wasn’t immediately clear if they could leave the island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia.

The US State Department earlier said it was aware of reports that Americans had been arrested in Bahrain but declined further comment, citing privacy concerns.

They were arrested in the Shia town of Sitra on Sunday during clashes between security forces and protesters, a Bahraini police statement said.

“One of them was masked and taking part with a group of saboteurs in Sitra in acts of rioting and sabotage and attacks on security officials.

“The other three were arrested at a security checkpoint in the same area,” the statement said.

The four entered Bahrain between 11 and 12 February and “provided false information to concerned authorities”, claiming to be tourists, police said on Monday.
US journalist Anna Therese Day.
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US journalist Anna Day. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

However, “some of those arrested had carried out journalistic activities without permission from concerned authorities, in addition to carrying out illegal acts”.
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A spokesman for Day’s family said the four were committed journalists and denied they had done anything wrong.

“The allegation that they were in any way involved in illegal behaviour or anything other than journalistic activities is impossible,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Day is an award-winning journalist who has reported extensively from the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, and her work has been featured in news outlets including the New York Times and CNN, the statement added.

Home to the US Fifth Fleet, Bahrain was rocked by an Arab Spring-inspired uprising demanding reforms and a constitutional monarchy on 14 February 2011.

Authorities crushed the protest movement one month later. But demonstrators still take to the streets and clash with police in Shia towns surrounding the capital, Manama.

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