Roundup of some recent reports by journalists

Over the course of the week, a growing number of journalists have arrived in Bahrain to report on the buildup to the race. A Twitter list of journalists in Bahrain has been created by US activist Dutch Johnson here. Here is a small selection of journalists reports:

Oliver Brown, Daily Telegraph, April 18th 2013

Efforts by the authorities to project an impression of ‘move along, no problems here’ have also been heightened, with police patrol cars lining every stretch of motorway. On the first night here, it took my driver four attempts to evade the checkpoints on the return journey to Juffair, and only then because he recognised a Bahraini police officer whom he knew would subject him to less of an inquisition than the man’s Saudi colleagues.

This driver disclosed that he earned more than enough money not to be transporting journalists behind the police cordon for reasons of financial gain. Rather, having lost a close friend in the failed 2011 insurrection, he said: “For the sake of your children, you must not let this repression happen to anybody else, for any reason.”

It would be a salutary lesson for Formula One to heed.

Read full article. See also Oliver Brown’s articles from Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kevin Eason, The Times, April 18th 2013

Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Bahrain International Circuit chief executive, said: “The Gulf’s largest annual sporting and social event creates a global awareness for Bahrain and Bahraini companies.”

You would think his message of economic hope would gladden the hearts of the poor Bahrainis in their villages. But a doctor, who cannot be named because he was jailed during the uprising, told me that he could not support the grand prix. It was seen simply as an instrument of Government and an event far beyond the pockets of the ordinary people.

“I am a fan,” he said. “I love Formula One and grew up watching drivers like Damon Hill. But this is not for me or for the people here. It is for the Government and their people and the protests will go on as long F1 is here or there is peace.”

Faisal Hayyad is a sports journalist who lost his job after being jailed for six months, he says, for taking part in one of the mass demonstrations. “In 2004 when F1 came, the Government told us there would be a bright economic future. But it never happened, Formula One is for the elite, not the people. It is for politics and politics and sport must be kept apart.”

The grand prix will go ahead, but Formula One, the sport famous for driving at high speeds in circles, should surely fear that it is trapped in Bahrain’s revolving door of accusation and recrimination for years to come.

Read full article. See also Kevin Eason’s articles from Tuesday and Wednesday.

Paul Weaver, The Guardian, April 17th 2013

The February 14 Youth Coalition, the underground movement that named itself after the date of the uprising in Bahrain two years ago, is stepping up its protests to Sunday’s grand prix.

The coalition has embarked on a week-long campaign entitled “volcanic flame” and Ala’a Shehabi, a British-born activist and economics lecturer, said here on Wednesday night: “There will be many more protests from early on Thursday morning and through Friday. There will be road-blocks everywhere.”

But pro-democracy protesters opposed to Sunday’s race have also been frustrated by increased security measures which have driven them out of the capital, Manama. Shehabi said: “There was a blanket ban on all protests after last year’s grand prix. People have been forced underground now. Protesters have been pushed to parts of small villages where they can’t be heard or seen. As long as you’re not seen or heard by anyone it’s OK.

“There is a continuation of government repression. We haven’t seen justice or accountability for the F1 staff who were sacked and arrested and tortured in 2011. They were tortured at the circuit itself.”

Read full article. See also Paul Weaver’s articles from Tuesday and today.

See also Ian Parkes’ interview with Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani, and for an alternative perspective from a British journalist, see Jonathan McEvoy’s report for the Daily Mail who argues that a “vast majority” in Bahrain support the race.

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