Bahrain State Media Posts Protester Death Sentences on YouTube

Uri Friedman
April 28, 2011
Bahrain State Media Posts Protester Death Sentences on YouTube

A Bahraini court sentenced four Shiite protesters to death and three others to life imprisonment today for running over two policemen with a vehicle during pro-democracy protests, prompting concerns that the verdict could inflame sectarian tensions in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. The men, who can appeal the verdict, had pleaded not guilty. Bahrain last issued a death sentence in 2007, and had sentenced only one other person to death in the previous three decades, according to Al Arabiya.

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In reporting the verdicts, Bahrain's state-run news agency, BNA, harnessed a tool often associated with the protest movements in the Arab world: YouTube. BNA posted two English-subtitled videos on the site characterizing the protesters in Bahrain as "gangs of outlaws" and the seven men sentenced today as criminals. The videos air alleged confessions from accomplices in the policemen's killing and testimonials from relatives of the policemen.

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The first video explains, to rousing music, how Bahrain is a "land of love and peace" where people of "all creeds" live together and practice their religions freely, but then explains how, as revolutions broke out in the Arab world, people in Bahrain wanted to "take advantage of the changes in the region to ... implement their conspiracy after sugarcoating it with slogans of peacefulness." (We haven't posted the second video, which is very graphic, but you can find it here.)

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