I admit I don’t know much about Robert, but what I do know is that he is a renowned journalist and a man of very high standing and integrity. As far as I know, he believes in justice and equality – which is why I found the article so disappointing.
The article had to do with the very controversial topic of the doctors and nurses who are on trial here in Bahrain. A lot has been said about this topic – from both sides – and I have nothing new to add. What I do have a problem with is some of the language used, as well as some of the accusations and assumptions Robert makes.
Here are some of the points I have issues with:
– Is it appropriate for a journalist to write “Has the Khalifa family gone mad?” Really? A whole family gone mad? I don’t think generalisations like this are fair, nor are they professional. In my opinion it exposes his biases.
– Also, he says that the royal family started an “utterly fraudulent” trial of doctors. This is a massive claim, and in my opinion, if he has no proof of it being fraudulent, then he is “suable” for it.
– As far as I’m aware – and I might be wrong about this – the trials are not military courts (but do have one of three judges from the military)
– Robert says “The defendants… are, of course, members of the majority Shia people of Bahrain.” First, they are not all Shia. Second, it’s not so straight forward. I’ll be the first to admit that there has been some neglect from our government concerning some of our Shia brethren (in fact, some neglect overall) but could it be that perhaps these doctors have done something illegal?
Furthermore, does it matter who is a majority and who is a minority in Bahrain? Why don’t we hear such reporting about trials in the West? It’s like saying “Nine black men where put on trial in the mainly white-dominated United Kingdom.” Or “an atheist women was put on trial in a mainly Catholic city.” This Sunni minority/ Shia majority thing is getting a bit out of hand.
– Robert says he saw doctors “drenched in their patients’ blood, desperately trying to staunch the bullet wounds of pro-democracy demonstrators…” I don’t doubt for one moment that this is true, and would never dream of calling a man like Robert Fisk a lier. However, isn’t it possible that some of the same doctors could have also denied treatment for people they hated? Isn’t it possible that a doctor save lives yet still commits crimes – especially in a chaotic time like the one Bahrain went through? Doctor’s are not saints, and they can commit crimes like anyone else. And I have no doubt that some doctors in their emotional, enraged state may have broken the law. This crisis polarised a lot of people, and I cannot imagine how chaotic and crazy Salmaniya was in those days.
– Robert says “How could these fine medical men and women have been trying to ‘topple’ the monarchy?” The answer of course for me is “I don’t know,”, but the fact remains that protestors in conjunction with some doctors and nurses took over the Salmaniya Medical Complex. Is this right? How would Robert feel if “pro-democracy” protesters took over St. Mary’s Hospital in London, and took prisoners to boot? The Bahrain crisis is not so black and white, it has lots and lots of grey shades.
– Robert continues “The idea that a woman and child died because they were rejected by doctors and refused medical treatment is a fantasy.” I’m not sure how he can make a claim like that. But if the matter does go to court, then we’ll see. I’m sure the Independent has some pretty sharp lawyers, as will the Bahrain government. I’m sure the court case will reveal if this is true or a “fantasy.”
– Here’s what I consider Robert’s nastiest remark, he says “The Saudis are now running the country. They never received an invitation to send their own soldiers to support the Bahraini ‘security forces’ from the Bahraini Crown Prince, who is a decent man. They simply invaded and received a post-dated invitation.” I find this statement offensive. Does he have proof of this? I’ve seen a lot of photos and videos online of the “evil” Saudi forces doing this or that, but so far I’ve found nothing convincing. This must be the most benign occupation ever. (Note, I’m talking about the Saudi forces, not the Bahrain riot police, who are not exactly known for their gentleness. But even that is debatable… but that’s a whole other blog post)
– Finally, Robert says “Bahrain is no longer the kingdom of the Khalifas. It has become a Saudi palatinate, a confederated province of Saudi Arabia, a pocket-size weasel state from which all journalists should in future use the dateline: Manama, Occupied Bahrain.” Ouch! This comment is made out of anger – a purely emotional statement without any validity.
I think I can understand where Robert is coming from. If one were engrossed in all the madness that was Salmaniya hospital for a few weeks, of course one would get emotional. But I wish that during his stay here he also interviewed the people that were attacked by the rioters. I wish he’d also spoken to the people who lived in fear and would not leave their houses because of fear of being attacked.
Where is the journalistic integrity and the balanced reporting? Something that’s been distinctly lacking during this crisis – from all sides.
As for Robert Fisk, though I may not agree with what he said and how he said it, I still respect him and hold him in the highest regard. I hope that one day he’ll have a more balanced view on things.
Talk to you soon.