Bahrain slams critics of F1 race
Manama, April 1, 2014
Bahrain has hit back at critics of this weekend's Formula One race, which some opposition activists want to be cancelled because of the increased security that comes with it.
It follows an article in a British national newspaper, which suggests the event should not go ahead because it resulted in human rights violations, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The Guardian interviewed Maryam Al Khawaja, whose father is serving a life sentence in Bahrain after being convicted along with 12 others of espionage, trying to forcibly overthrow the monarchy, violating the Constitution and having ties to a terrorist organisation.
It says a letter to Formula One management, sent by a group Al Khawaja represents, claimed the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix was held under conditions that "effectively amounted to martial law".
However, Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority (IAA) has issued an official response in which it outlines the positive impact of the three-day event on the country.
"An independent study proved the race brought a gross economic impact of $295 million in the past and supported 3,000 jobs across retail, business and hospitality sectors," it said in a statement.
"This fact alone supports many of the social grievances being voiced in the country.
"Moreover, the race is watched by almost 515 million individuals in 187 territories around the world, serving as an international platform to bolster the country's global appeal, encourage investment opportunities and support the local community."
Bahrain's private sector is still recovering from a series of anti-government protests targeting commercial areas since February 2011, as well as a campaign of violence waged by radical opposition groups that has disrupted daily life and left 12 police officers dead.
The IAA defended increased security measures that accompany the Formula One and said it was simply protecting the public.
"To see the Bahraini opposition members and activists alike exploit the international spotlight the country is under during the Formula One race is nothing new," the IAA statement said.
"This pattern is reflected on-ground by the extremely radicalised rebels who engage in violent militant behaviour that has led to the death of four police officers just in the past two months.
"It is the government's duty to protect the lives of citizens from those who wish to hijack an event for political gains."
The IAA also criticised the newspaper for not seeking an official response and asked for its article to be amended to include its comments.
"The race echoes the country's dire need for a positive change and social unity, and we would caution the reporter from repeating the claims made by those with a political agenda," it said.
"We do hope to see the article adjusted to reflect the government's stance."
It also described claims the Formula One race was simply a public relations exercise as "wholly unjustified" and highlighted that Bahrain had been actively addressing recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was commissioned by the government in the wake of 2011 unrest. - TradeArabia News Service