A CHANNEL 4 NEWS team which was arrested in Bahrain yesterday has been deported from the kingdom this morning.
The broadcaster says that the three-person team was arrested yesterday while operating without official accreditation, which had been refused by the Bahraini government ahead of the weekend’s F1 grand prix race.
The race was cancelled last year due to political unrest and protests, but went ahead as planned this weekend despite ongoing violence.
On Saturday, Bahrain’s Interior Ministry confirmed an investigation has been launched into the death of a protester following clashes between demonstrators and security forces on Friday. At least 50 people have been killed in the Arab Spring-inspired protests since February 2011.
The station’s foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller tweeted earlier today that he, cameraman Joe Sheffer, producer Dave Fuller, their driver, and activist Dr Ala’a Shehabi were arrested by police who confiscated their cameras and computers.
The Channel 4 team was then taken to the airport for deportation this morning, but Miller says that British Airways refused to board them over paperwork issues:
We are waiting for police to return to pick us up. BA staff here say our documentation not in order. Captain decided he couldn’t take us
Argument going on in Bahrain airport between British Airways and Info Min about who’s to blame for us not getting on plane
Miller later tweeted that a non-British airline was taking them home. There were also concerns for the safety of the driver and the activist who were arrested alongside the journalists, though Miller also later said they were released.
Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid al Khalifa later dismissed concerns for the driver’s safety:
Journalists have criticised the Bahraini authorities for refusing to facilitate news coverage over the grand prix weekend, with news teams being denied visas for entry and denied visas for the period in question.
BBC’s Middle East bureau chief Paul Danaher said this morning on Twitter he was “amused” to hear Bahraini authorities criticise the Channel 4 news team for failing to get the relevant visas like other news organisations, when his own team had to leave the country days ahead of the F1 race:
Amused to hear (on BBC) #Bahrain gov criticise deported C4 news team by saying could have got proper journo visa like BBC, CNN (1/2)
My BBC News team (ie not sports team) in #Bahrain got 72 hour non extendable visa & had to leave Thursday, 3 days before the race (2/2)