Last updated: 11 August, 2011

Al-Jazeera defends Bahrain documentary

The head of the Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera English defended a documentary about this year’s unrest in Bahrain, in comments published Thursday, after an angry response by Bahraini authorities.

Al Anstey said in an interview with Qatar’s Peninsula daily that the documentary, “Shouting in the Dark,” did not include comment from Bahraini authorities because they refused to speak to the channel.

“We were not given free access. We were denied comment by the Bahraini authorities. Our producer was unable to access certain areas. Some sections of society also refused to comment,” Anstey told the newspaper.

He said the channel had waited in vain for a comment from Manama, and in the end, “the documentary was aired when it was complete.”

The documentary deals with the harsh government crackdown on popular protests in mid-March, in which authorities say 24 people were killed. It provoked an angry response by Bahrain, where the media have harshly criticised Al-Jazeera, which is financed by Qatar’s government.

“The Qatari media are carrying out disinformation and incitement to sedition in Bahrain,” the kingdom’s Al-Watan daily wrote on Monday.

Al-Jazeera’s Arabic channel, which had given extensive coverage to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, had been widely criticized by activists for its perceived timid coverage of the unrest in Bahrain, a fellow member with Qatar of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

The GCC, which also includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman, had dispatched forces to Bahrain to back the small kingdom’s Sunni-led dynasty against protests organised by the country’s Shiite majority.