Justice dies in darkness

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Monday, July 3, 2017 - 14:37

By Justice Hub

Truth, justice and democracy are fragile things. Few people understand this better than award-winning Bahraini journalist Nazeeha Saeed.  Saeed was tortured by state officers during the Arab Spring after reporting on the death of a peaceful protestor at the hands of the police. A lesser person would have turned tail after such a traumatic experience but Saeed is made of tougher stuff.

Instead of being silenced, Saeed took her torturers to court. Although she didn’t win the legal fight to bring her tormentors to account, Saeed said she scored an even greater victory by putting everything on the public record for all the world to see:

“I didn't get justice but this battle gave me strength and shed light on the situation in the country especially regarding freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The whole world was watching what was going on in Bahrain because a journalist was in court and she was holding her torturers to account. They were acquitted at the end but at least I fought the battle for freedom of expression,” said Saeed at a recent HAGUE TALK themed on “How to get inclusive justice.”

As part of Justice Hub’s #MyJustice series, we feature her recent HAGUE TALK

Tortured for 13 hours

I am a Bahraini journalist and I come from a society that happened to have a prodemocracy movement in 2011. People went to the street in protests calling for democracy just like other Arab countries. As a journalist, when I found myself in that situation, I did what I usually did: I covered what was happening in my country.

It happened that I saw an old man, Issa Abdel Hassan, getting killed in front of me by a police man. I reported what I saw in front of my eyes to the TV and radio stations that I worked for. I didn't take sides as a journalist. I was there, I saw, I reported. Three months later, I was punished for it. 

I was called to Riffa Police Station and I was interrogated, threatened, beaten, electrocuted, handcuffed and blindfolded. My shoes were shoved into my mouth because the policewoman said it is cleaner than my tongue because I am spreading lies and fabricating the news. 

I was tortured for 13 hours in the police station. Because of pressure from the TV and radio station I work for and, because they are French, I was let go. The story didn't end here. I decided to take my torturers to court. I went into a two-year court battle with the torturers. I didn't get justice but this battle gave me strength and shed light on the situation in the country especially regarding freedom of expression and freedom of the press. 

A journalist on trial

The whole world was watching what was going on in Bahrain because a journalist was on trial. The story didn't end here. I decided to take my torturers to court. I went into a two-year court battle with the torturers. I didn't get justice but this battle gave me strength and shed light on the situation in the country especially regarding freedom of expression and freedom of the press. 

The whole world was watching what was going on in Bahrain because a journalist was in court and she was holding her torturers to account. They were acquitted at the end but at least I fought the battle for freedom of expression. 

At that moment when the policewoman decided to put the shoes in my mouth, I knew that my voice is really important and what I say is really important too. Mr Issa Abdel Hassan who died in front of my eyes has to have justice. He died because he was protesting peacefully. That was the intention of reporting such a story. The intention wasn't to give a bad impression about my country or to say something about the Ministry of Interior and how its police forces deal with the protesters. 

The power structure that dictatorships are built on, whether it is social power, religious power or political power if it is built on authoritarianism and not sharing with the people in making decisions. They don't want there to be a free media because their project will not succeed.  A free media will shed light on the violations and on the corruption. This is what they don't want. That's why media is important to have a just society. 

Mr Issa Abdel Hassan didn't get justice and I didn't get justice. Media plays a vital role in spreading information and knowledge so that at the end we can get just societies. Creating equality, democracy and fighting for freedom is what journalism should do. Bahrain ranks 164 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index published by Journalists Without Borders.   

Journalists these days are interrogated, arrested and even killed in many, many places in the world for just doing their jobs. Repressors don't like to have a free press because they want to do what they do without somebody witnessing or telling the world what they do. 

Free speech and free media are core values in the universal declaration of human rights. Article 19 gives us all the right to report freely and to express our opinions. To have an exclusive society we need to empower the press to be professional enough, to criticise enough for a better life and a better way of living and improving human rights for all. 

Nazeeha Saeed has seventeen years of experience in journalism and broadcast media. She has worked in print, radio and TV media and is heavily involved in the coverage of human rights stories. Saeed is the winner of Johann-Philipp-Palm-Award for Freedom of Speech and the Press 2014.

HAGUE TALKS is a meeting place for creative minds, peace inventors and game changers in the field of peace and justice. For more info visit http://www.haguetalks.com/

 

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