The European Union condemned the closing of Bahrain's only independent newspaper, Al-Wasat, on Friday 7 August. The paper should "resume publication as soon as possible", the EU said in a statement that also called for Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority (IAA) to "swiftly" review its decision to close it.
"The EU believes that the existence of independent media outlets reinforces freedom of speech by providing a platform for the expression of different opinions and grievances of various segments of Bahraini society," the European government said.
At 11.39pm on 6 August, the government's media authority "temporarily suspend the independent newspaper Al-Wasat until further notice". The brief announcement on the authority's website charged the paper violated the law with "repeated dissemination of information that affects national unity and the Kingdom's relationship with other countries".
The Kingdom of Bahrain, which is made up of 30 small islands in the Persian Gulf, calls itself a constitutional monarchy, but since its parliament has no power and its judiciary is not independent, many considered it an absolute monarchy.
Some have pointed out the government did not mention which laws have been violated by the newspaper. "Article 28 of Decree-Law No. 47 of 2003 stipulates that it is not permitted to suspend a newspaper unless by a judicial verdict," Abdullah Al-Shamlawi, a Bahrainian lawyer, was quoted as saying by local media outlet the Bahrain Mirror.
Al-Wasat received a warning from the government's IAA on 4 August for an article that was critical of the practice of calling Shi'ites "traitors" and that MPs from Bahrain had met with a group called the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) that advocates the overthrow of Iran's government.
The IAA wrote: "We inform you that the column contained false information that is considered a violation to the Decree-Law No. 47 of 2002 on the Organisation of the Press, Printing and Publishing."