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BAHRAIN: Government shuts down newspaper critical of crackdown

April 3, 2011 | 12:11 pm

Picture 16 Sunday's print and online editions of the independent Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat were blocked as authorities reportedly accused the daily of fabricating news in its coverage of the widespread anti-government protest movement that rocked the country last month.

Al Jazeera reported that Al Wasat had been critical in its coverage of the state's response to the popular uprising. Security forces violently ousted demonstrators from Manama's Pearl Roundabout and allegedly open fire on peaceful marches. 

Editor Mansour Jamri, speaking to the Financial Times, denied the allegations against his paper, describing a "sustained campaign" against the publication.

“They [the authorities] say someone was working with them, so maybe something was planted so they could come back at us," Jamri told the Financial Times [registration required]. "All we can say is we never intended to fabricate news."

The targeting of media outlets is the latest indication of a widening crackdown by the Sunni-dominated government against the protest movement, which is driven largely by the country's majority Shiite population.

At least 24 people have been killed since the unrest began, the government announced last Tuesday, and activists say hundreds more have been arrested in recent weeks as Bahraini and other Gulf Arab forces set up checkpoints around the small island nation to monitor citizens' movements, especially in and out of Shiite areas.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Image: Al Wasat's Web portal was blocked on Sunday.