Protesters denounced the Grand Prix as a gaudy spectacle by a ruling family that crushed demonstrations
King Hamad of Bahrain has accused foreign media of exaggerating unrest and inciting violence in the Gulf Arab state after it hosted a Formula One race last month that turned into a public relations headache.
Speaking on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, His Majesty hit out at \'phony rhetoric\' that he said had been directed at Bahrain as part of a campaign to incite violence. \"It is quite clear that Bahrain has been targeted by purposeful, willful campaigns in some foreign media that sought to distort true facts, instigate violence, sabotage, hatred and hostility among citizens in our united nation,\" the king said in a speech carried by the state news agency BNA.
He gave no details on which media he was referring to, but said Bahrain would assure freedom of expression.
The King said Bahrain remained committed to respecting journalistic principles outlined in the Windhoek Declaration and called on media organisations around the world to remain honest, credible, subjective, neutral and support dialogue and peaceful co-existence.
Meanwhile, he also paid tribute to Bahrain\'s journalism pioneers, as well as those who had put the country\'s interests above \'material, ideological or sectarian considerations\'.
The King also backed the Information Affairs Authority\'s efforts to develop the media sector with an advanced media production city in the pipeline and further investment being sought.
Bahraini authorities drew criticism from media freedom groups when they stopped some journalists entering the country ahead of the April 20-22 Grand Prix race. Critics said Manama staged the race as an improper show of normality in the country.
\"There should be no tampering with the right of Bahraini citizens to express their opinions, nor any ceiling to freedom and creativity, except professionalism, national and ethical responsibilities and observance of the people\'s unity and national interest...,\" the monarch said.
Authorities in Bahrain have been struggling to crush the uprising for democratic reforms with martial law and bringing in Saudi troops. But more than a year later, unrest has not gone away.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to stop dozens who tried to protest in Manama on Tuesday. Activists reported tear gas and birdshot fired in Jidhafs on the edge of the capital on Wednesday in a rally for the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Bahrain\'s most famous opposition activist.
Opposition parties hold weekly rallies and riot police clash almost nightly with protesters in villages of the Shia Muslim
majority demanding reforms that would reduce the extensive powers of the ruling Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family.
The Sunni monarchy says it has started reforms in the police, judicial and media after a report by rights investigators criticising last year\'s crackdown on dissidents and referring to widespread use of torture.
Bahrain\'s media is about to enter a new era of freedom with fresh legislation on the way, King Hamad pledged yesterday (May 2), describing freedom of expression as a right of all Bahrainis.
Columnists in Bahraini daily papers - all but one are pro-government - have denounced the main Shia opposition party Wefaq as \"the Bahraini Hezbollah\", in reference to the Iranian-backed Shia movement.
Many Bahrain activists follow online sites based abroad, such as Bahrain Mirror. State television does not cover opposition rallies or feature opposition leaders as guests.
A new minister of state for information, Samira Rajab, appointed last month, has been a prominent defender of government policies in Arab media.
A former supporter of the Iraqi Baath party of late dictator Saddam Hussein, Rajab regularly denounces Wefaq as a believer in Iran\'s system of clerical government. Rajab says the opposition have declined offers to appear on state television.
Ali al-Deiry, a well-known Bahraini journalist who fled abroad during the crackdown, ridiculed King Hamad\'s remarks.
\"The gap is widening day after day between what the king says and the reality on the ground. The facts blatantly contradict what he says,\" he told the Reuters news agency from an undisclosed location outside Bahrain. \"There is no reform in the media at all, and it was a surprise for them that foreign media (during Formula One) did not wait for approval from them for what it said,\" al-Deiry said.