Freelance reporter Anna Therese Day and three other unnamed American journalists have been detained in Bahrain while covering protests during the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising.
The Frontline Freelance Register says Day and her camera crew were detained February 14 and have not been released. The case has been referred to public prosecution, Bahrani officials said.
The Bahrain Interior Ministry said in a statement the journalists are suspected of “entering Bahrain illegally having submitted false information to border staff, and participating in an unlawful gathering”.
On Tuesday, Day and her colleagues were charged with unlawful obstruction of vehicles and attending unlawful gatherings. They were released from custody “pending further investigation” and have left the country, NBC News reports.
“We are grateful to Bahraini authorities for their speedy resolution of the issue,” the statement said, thanking U.S. officials who had “worked tirelessly to assist the group,” a statement from the families of the journalists said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Her Family Says Its ‘Impossible’ She & Her Colleagues Were Doing Anything Illegal
Bahrain’s interior ministry said the four were arrested in the Shia-majority village of Sitra, where anti-government protests have recently occurred, the BBC reports. They had entered Bahrain between February 11 and 12.
“At least some of the arrestees were in the country as members of the international media but had not registered with the concerned authority and were involved in illegal activities,” the interior ministry said, adding that one was
“wearing a mask and participating in attacks on police alongside other rioters in Sitra.”
The three other journalists were arrested at a security checkpoint.
Anna Therese Day’s family issued a statement through a spokesperson:
Anna and her crew are committed journalists who only want to ensure they could undertake their profession ethically and thoroughly. The allegation that they were in any way involved in illegal behavior or anything other than journalistic activities is impossible. Anna Day is much loved and missed and we are concerned about her well being as well as that of her three American colleagues. We hope the Bahraini authorities will release all four journalists as soon as possible so they can return home.
There has been political unrest in Bahrain since the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, which was put down by the Sunni-led government, according to the BBC.
One of Day’s friends and a fellow journalist told Reuters it’s difficult for foreign journalists to get government accreditation in Bahrain, and many freelancers work without it.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the detentions, but didn’t comment further.
2. The University of Wisconsin Graduate Has Covered the Middle East for Several News Organizations
Day, 27, a native of Boise, Idaho, graduated in 2010 from the University of Wisconsin, according to her Linkedin profile.
She was a Fulbright Fellow and has worked for several news organizations covering the Middle East since graduating from college, including the New York Times.
“On the ground in Bahrain, Brazil, Egypt, India, Israel, Jordan, Kiribati, Lebanon, Libya, Mexico, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, South Sudan, and Turkey, her coverage focuses on American foreign policy, women’s issues, and youth organizing,” her website says. “Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including CNN, Al Jazeera English, CBS, and numerous print outlets, translated into Arabic, English, Hebrew, and Spanish.”
3. She Was Named Among Google Zeitgeist’s 30 Great Young Minds of Our Time in 2011
Day has received several honors during her short career as a foreign correspondent. In 2011, Google Zeitgeist named her among the “Top 30 Great Young Minds of Our Time.”
She was also a 2013 Fulbright Fellow, a 2012 United Nations Press Fellow and was selected as one of Mic.com’s #Mic50 Millennial Leaders in 2015, according to her website.
“I can’t count the number of people and events and memories that I’ve shared over the past few years that give me chills just reflecting on them. The responsibility is huge, but ultimately, this job is a privilege and I’m lucky to do what I do,” she told Mic. “I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined at an accelerated, seemingly lightning pace, and on most days, I’d recommend this career path to anyone — especially young people who refuse to accept the injustice of the status quo.”
4. She Recently Spoke About the Need to Protect Journalists Working in Dangerous Areas
Day is a founding board member of The Frontline Freelance Register, which is a “body for freelance conflict journalists organized by freelance conflict journalists.”
She recently spoke before the Overseas Press Club of America to call for more protection and freedom for journalists in dangerous areas. You can watch video from the event above.
5. Journalist Groups Called for the Immediate Release of Day & the Other Journalists
The Frontline Freelance Register and other groups called for the immediate release of Day and her camera crew.
“The four are experienced journalists, having most recently worked on virtual reality documentary filmmaking in Egypt and Gaza, and we hope the Bahraini authorities will release them rapidly and without harm,” the organization said Monday in a statement.
“It is sad that the fifth anniversary of the 2011 protests has been marked by the arrest of yet more journalists in Bahrain, which has since become one of the worst jailers of journalists in the Arab world,” said Sherif Mansour, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call for the immediate release of the four journalists arrested today and all other journalists who have been imprisoned over the past five years.”
Reporters Without Borders called for the four journalists to be released “rapidly and without harm”.