For the past decades, the Bahraini press has fought alongside the country’s deep-rooted democratic movement for freedom of expression. Following the constitutional reforms in 2002, and with them the abolishment of the State Security Act, many oppositional and independent newspapers, which had been forced to publish elsewhere, especially in Beirut or London, were able to return to Bahrain. The country’s press is among the freest in the Gulf. In contrast to its richer Gulf neighbours, such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, the Bahraini newspapers employ mostly local journalists who are formed by a strong tradition for social and political engagement.
Did you know?
The first newspaper in Bahrain was established in 1936. It was a weekly called Bahrain. The first generation of newspapers which appeared after Bahrain, such as Sawt Al Bahrain, Al Qafila and Al Watan worked with very limited material resources and were all closed down by the authorities since they were deemed too nationalistic by the authorities. They reflected the idea of Pan-Arab nationalism, which did not recognise the right of any state but the Arab Nation-State.
Language: Arabic Established: 1976 Published daily
The oldest newspaper in Bahrain today - established in 1976 - and a staunchly pro-government one, Akhbar al Khaleej often publishes strong-worded editorials, mostly written by its editor-in-chief Anwar Abdul Rahman, which attack the opposition and praise the ruling family. Akhbar al Khaleej also features some critical voices, such as the well-known Ali Saleh, who writes very outspoken anti-corruption columns. It comes with a large daily sports supplement.
A pro-government newspaper with a liberal profile, Al Ayam somewhat surprisingly combines clear sympathies with the large Shi'a community and declarations of allegiance to the Sunni ruling family. Parallel to its extensive coverage of the activities of the ruling family and the government, Al Ayam features some outspoken, mostly secular columnists, such as Ahmad Juma, Ismat Al Moussawi and Ahmad Kamal, who take to task the edicts of the conservative religious movement and even at times the anti-Western hyperbole of the Pan-Arab nationalists. Besides the sports, business and entertainment supplements that are common for most Bahraini newspapers, Al Ayam has also a special features section focusing on the activities of the parliament.
Language: Arabic Established: 2002 Published daily
The leading independent newspaper, Al Wasat offers some of the best columns in Bahrain as well as a broad selection of writers with diverse affiliations (Shi'a, Sunni, Islamist, nationalist) and a will to criticize the government. The newspaper boasts a streamlined layout and a large culture supplement, called Colours.
Language: English Established: 1997 Published daily
The English-language sister paper of Al Ayam, a pro-government newspaper with a liberal profile, Bahrain Tribune offers a broad coverage of local and international politics of interest to the English-speaking expatriate community and a special focus on issues relating to the large Asian community.