Western media’s biased coverage of Bahrain riots

Western media’s biased coverage of Bahrain riots

Media play a big role in highlighting an incident and giving it a positive or a negative spin. The western media comprehensively cover Shiite youth riots led by Al-Wefag opposition group in Bahrain, while legitimate protests taking place in other parts of the world that are confronted with extreme brutality by security forces do not receive a matching coverage. The impression conveyed by these media outlets is that the world is in total peace and harmony, except this small island.
Since February 2011, the media coverage has portrayed the youth riots in Bahrain as a conflict between the oppressors and the victims. The general perception about police worldwide is unfavorable and they are associated with high-handedness and brutality. This thinking, in a way, supports western media propaganda to demonize the Bahraini police and the audience take the coverage on face value.
The rioters, on the other hand, are usually associated with creating havoc, yet the media in this case present them as victims. The general picture thus created by the western media is that the government is the oppressor and the youths are helpless victims, which is totally incorrect and contrary to reality.
The fact is, the rioters assemble weapons at home, such as gasoline bombs and explosive devices that are identical to those used to kill US troops in Iraq (improvised explosive device — IED). They use guns and machine-guns during protests in addition to setting fire to tires on the streets that lead to casualties, disruption of normal life and ultimately hamper the progress of the country. In the face of these dangerous and hostile actions, the Bahraini police always respond with tear gas and stun grenades to defend themselves, protect civilians and maintain normalcy in the society.
Though Bahraini police use tear gas as per the international standards and guidelines to control rioting, they are accused by human rights groups of excessive use of these conventional tools to disperse unruly and rampaging youths. Can these so-called rights groups suggest any alternative other than tear-gassing? Will the police be using live bullets, tanks, cluster and phosphorous bombs to deal with these protesters and neutralize them?
The fact is that instead of commending the Bahrain government for exercising restraint and for its civilized response to these daily riots and deadly attacks against police officers, civilians and government organizations, western media report only one side of the story — the court trials of the culprits. They brand these rioters as young victims who do not know what they are doing and should not be tried for their crimes.
Most of these brainwashed youths in Bahrain are reportedly encouraged by their leaders to engage in violence and are lectured on how to make homemade bombs. For example, a 17-year-old youth, who was involved in several criminal attacks, made a bomb and was on his way to plant it when it went off in his hands and killed him. Gun and ammunition were found next to his corpse. The bomb could have caused many casualties and led to mayhem and chaos had it been planted as planned.
The opposition made the youth a hero and accused the police of his murder. They staged a demonstration and attacked police with Molotov bombs. Six rioters attacked security forces with gasoline bombs that seriously injured two police officers and set their vehicle on fire. They were tried by a criminal court and handed ten years in prison. Nonetheless, western media described those culprits (the terrorist youth and the six criminals) as teenagers, only to imply that the Bahraini government was acting cruelly and handing down prison sentences against teenagers.
One wonders about the political motive that drives western media to give a biased coverage to unfolding events in Bahrain.

• Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan is a Saudi academician based in Riyadh. This article is exclusive to Arab News.

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