A senior United Nations official today called for an investigation into the deaths of two media professionals in Bahrain who died earlier this month while held in detention.
Karim Fakhrawi, the co-founder of the country’s only independent newspaper Al-Wasat, died in custody on 12 April, one week after he was arrested.
The non-governmental group Reporters without Borders (RSF) quotes the authorities as saying that Mr. Fakhrawi died of kidney failure, but this has been contested by his family, who claims he had been in good health at the time of his arrest.
Online writer Zakariya Rashid Hassan died in detention on 9 April, according to RSF. He had been arrested a week earlier allegedly on charges of inciting hatred, disseminating false news, promoting sectarianism and calling for the regime’s overthrow.
His family has reportedly rejected the official claim that he died as a result of complications from sickle cell anaemia.
“The circumstances surrounding their deaths are indeed troubling and I urge the authorities of Bahrain to carry out a thorough investigation into these incidents,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“Karim Fakhrawi and Zakariya Rashid Hassan defended the development of a free and pluralistic media, which UNESCO also champions as one of the guarantees for good governance and the respect of human and civic rights,” she added in a news release.
Senior UN officials have voiced concern over the recent violence in Bahrain, where the Government has cracked down on protests similar to those witnessed in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The suppression of the right to freedom of expression was a major concern cited by the UN human rights office last month, as well as the reported arrests of political activists, human rights defenders and medical professionals.