A little studio in an industrial park in suburban London. This is the very place where last 17 July, fifteen Bahraini activists launched Lualua TV, an independent TV channel. They previously tried to broadcast directly from Bahrain but were denied the required permit. When the activists began to air their programmes from the UK, the Kingdom's authorities started jamming of Lualua TV despite changing frequency several times.
Lualua TV (the pearl in Arabic) was named after the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the very heart of the popular uprisings in Bahrain which erupted last February. According to the managing director of Lualua TV, this TV channel aims to reflect the values of pluralism and democracy for which the Bahraini people have been demonstrating for since the beginning of the insurrection. 'We are an independent channel', he declares, 'We share points of views from all different political parties in Bahrain. (...) Our mission is to promote democracy and justice in our country.'. According to him, the channel is conceived as an alternative source of information as Bahraini state media is well-known to solely reflect the views of the government.
Lualua TV, mainly consisting of news and talk shows, was to air six hours a day. Yet, on 17 July 2011, when the channel went on air for the first time, the signal was blocked three times. Over the following days, the producers attempted in vain to broadcast their programs by changing frequency several times. After having contacted Eutelsat, the company hosting Lualua TV to identify the source of the jamming, they found out that the technology required for the continuous jamming was extremely costly, a technology only affordable for specialised agencies. The experts concluded that the source of interference had to be traced back to Bahrain.
In order to continue broadcasting, the TV channel started to stream its program on the Internet, on streaming company Livestation's website. Two weeks later, users read, while attempting to access the website : 'This website is blocked due to violations of laws and regulations of the Kingdom of Bahrain.'.... A clear message from the authorities – and in particular from the body in charge of monitoring the web – who have been trying to stifle popular dissent since last February. This body, established by article 19 of Law-Decree No. 47 of 2002, has the power to block all websites deemed to represent a threat to the Kingdom's peace and stability.
Alkarama considers that the methods used by the Bahraini authorities violate the internationally-protected right to freedom of opinion and expression. We therefore ask the government to refrain from interfering with Lualua TV's signal directly or through another agency and to lift the censorship of Livestation. Today Alkarama requested the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to contact the Bahraini authorities about this situation.