Armed civilians affiliated with security forces kill citizen journalist
Citizen journalist and cameraman Ahmed Ismael Hassan AlSamadi (22 years old) from Salmabad, was shot in the right thigh (lower abdomen) at around 01:30 AM on 31 March 2012, and was later pronounced dead. According to eye witnesses, a peaceful protest in Salmabad was suppressed by security forces with tear gas and rubber bullets. Armed men in a civilian car (Toyota Land Cruisers) accompanying the security forces were shooting live rounds at protesters.
Witnesses said AlSamadi was filming the violations of security forces. At approximately 1:30 am, he was shot with a laser-guided weapon by one of the civilian vehicles accompanying the formal security forces. He was hit in the upper right thigh (lower abdomen), as he was targeted for holding a video camera.
AlSamadi was sent to the International Hospital where he was admitted to the ICU immediately. CID officers in civilian clothing arrived and started interrogating his family at the hospital, and asking who brought him to the hospital. The hospital was surrounded by riot police. AlSamadi was then moved to the Salmaniya Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
AlSamadi was well-known in the area for being a photographer and was always present at the protests to document what was happening.
The Bahrain Ministry of Interior confirmed the death due to an injury to the top of the right thigh and announced that the "Medical examiner attributes death of Ahmed Ismaeel to a single bullet wound. Public prosecution investigation continues."
BCHR has repeatedly warned against the use of armed civilians who are affiliated with the security forces and normally accompany them during attacks on protests as well as during house raids. Several cases of assaults by armed civilians affiliated with the security forces were reported and documented by the independent commission of inquiry (BICI) in its November 2011 report, and more cases surface every day.
AlSamadi is the third journalist to be killed in Bahrain since the start of the protests on February 14, 2012. Last year, BCHR documented a widespread crackdown on photographers for their role in documenting and exposing the violations. While the government announced that it has started prosecuting those responsible for the other two deaths, no officer has been convicted yet. Bahrain has been named recently by Reporters Without Borders as one of the 10 most dangerous places for journalists to work.
BCHR calls on the government of Bahrain:
- To conduct a serious, independent and transparent investigation into the death of AlSamadi and to bring those responsible to justice,
- To respect its obligation to the international conventions regarding the protection of freedom of expression, and in particular, the protection of media people and journalists, including citizen journalists who are doing their work in covering the protests and documenting violations.
- To immediately put an end to the act of arming civilians and using them against the peaceful protesters.