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Bahrain detains former AFP photojournalist on unspecified charges

The photo shows detained photojournalist Mohammed al-Shaikh covering protests in Manama, Bahrain, in 2013. (Photo by AFP)

Bahraini authorities have arrested a former photojournalist for the France-based AFP news agency, who had covered years of protests against the ruling Al Khalifah regime in the kingdom.

Mohammed al-Shaikh, a prize-winning photographer, was arrested at the airport and transferred to the country’s Criminal Investigation Unit after he arrived from vacation in India, reported the Agence France-Presse news agency, better known by its French acronym AFP, late Wednesday.

Bahraini officials have not specified the charges pressed against the journalist, who has been denied access to a lawyer, according to the report.

Shaikh’s accreditation to work for the AFP expired in August last year, with the Bahraini Information Affairs Authority refusing to renew his permit.

The photojournalist won the Bayeux-Calvados prize in 2014 for his coverage of the popular uprising against the ruling Al Khalifah family, which has been met with a harsh crackdown by the Bahraini regime backed by other Persian Gulf Arab states.

AFP management expressed its “most serious concern” for Shaikh’s well-being and called on Manama to immediately provide reasons for the arrest.

On Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also urged Bahraini authorities to immediately release Shaikh.

“Bahrain’s draconian journalist licensing law has already cost Mohammed al-Shaikh his job. Now he’s been robbed of his freedom,” CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said.

“It is outrageous that he should be detained on his return from vacation and denied access to a lawyer. The authorities should free him immediately,” he added.

Under Bahrain’s press and publications law, all journalists working with international media must obtain an annual license from the Information Affairs Authority.

The Ministry of Information has also refused to renew licenses for at least four journalists from Reuters, AFP and The Associated Press.

Mourners shout anti-regime slogans while holding photos of a martyr during his funeral procession in the village of Nawidarat south of Manama, Bahrain, February 21, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to assist Manama in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others have sustained injuries or been arrested.

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