Dubai, Feb 16: Bahrain has arrested four American journalists covering the anniversary of its 2011 uprising amid a long crackdown on dissent in the tiny Gulf nation, witnesses have said.
Police said they detained four Americans for providing "false information that they were tourists," while also alleging one took part in an attack on its officers. The US Embassy in Manama said it was "aware of the arrest of four US citizens in Bahrain" on Sunday but could not discuss the case due to privacy concerns.
Police said one of the journalists was a woman and three were men. Witnesses identified the woman as Anna Therese Day, an American freelance journalist from Boise, Idaho, who previously had contributed to The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.
In a statement, The Post told The Associated Press that Day, who had blogged on the website and appeared on its HuffPost Live program, was not on assignment for the outlet at the time of her arrest.
"The safety of journalists is of utmost importance to The Huffington Post and we have security measures in place for our reporters around the world," the statement read.
"Anna Day is not employed or contracted by The Huffington Post." Jesse Ayala, a friend in New York, said Day and her crew "were not on an exclusive assignment" when they were arrested.
"The allegation that they were in any way involved in illegal behavior or anything other than journalistic activities is impossible," Ayala said in a statement.
Photographs of the reporters working in Sitra, a largely Shiite community south of the capital that has seen repeated protests, circulated on social media, including one image of Day being filmed while speaking to a masked protester.
On Sunday, police arrested a photographer working with the group, the two witnesses said. Later that night, police surrounded the area with checkpoints and arrested the other three, they said.
The witnesses spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested. An Interior Ministry statement alleged one of the four journalists "was wearing a mask and participating in attacks on police alongside other rioters in Sitra."
The statement also said the journalists entered the country between Thursday and Friday on tourist visas.