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Doha, Qatar – Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN) has been blocked from covering the 37th summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Manama by Bahraini authorities.
Al Jazeera journalist Jamal Elshayyal was refused entry at Bahrain International Airport on Tuesday even though AJMN had followed all necessary procedures and submitted all requested documents to the relevant authorities on time.
“We applied for accreditation well before the deadline, submitting the names and passports as requested,” Elshayyal said in Qatar’s capital, Doha, after his return.
“I flew out to Manama this morning and upon reaching the immigration counter, I filled out the required form specifying I was a journalist and I was there to cover the summit.
“I was asked to sit on the side by the immigration officer who later informed me the Ministry of Information said Al Jazeera was not allowed to cover the event and I was rejected entry.”
Bahrain’s information ministry did not immediately return repeated calls and emails seeking comment.
Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said he did not have details on the incident but noted the Gulf kingdom’s track record on press freedom.
“Bahrain has jailed journalists, repeatedly cracked down on local and international coverage of protests, and banned international journalists from covering human rights abuses in the kingdom,” Mansour told Al Jazeera.
Manama previously blocked Al Jazeera’s reporters from covering the 30th GCC summit, without providing convincing reasons.
It was not the first time Bahraini authorities have prevented Al Jazeera from reporting on events in the country.
“Manama previously blocked Al Jazeera’s reporters from covering the 30th GCC summit, without providing convincing reasons,” AJMN said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“The network had prepared for special, comprehensive coverage of this important event,” it added.
No official reason has been received from Bahraini officials on why AJMN was refused entry.
“Al Jazeera condemns this measure, which is a deviation from the normal media protocols of host countries, and affirms that it will continue to cover news and events in Bahrain regardless of this ban,” the statement said.
The two-day summit in Bahrain’s capital is hosting Arab and Gulf leaders who are discussing regional and international issues, including the wars in Yemen and Syria.
This year’s summit is also being attended by British Prime Minister Theresa May, on her first visit to the region.