Where’s the News Coverage of Bahrain?
Don’t hear much about Bahrain?
Thousands of opposition demonstrators hit the streets there little over a week ago, while security forces faced off with activists at a flashpoint village just yesterday as unrest continues to roil the Gulf kingdom, a nation so strategically located it plays host to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Wait a second. Geopolitically critical nation—check. Protests against the government—check. Sexy Twitter feed about demonstrations—check. Youth bulge—check. Key activists imprisoned—check. Demand for a more representative government—check.
Isn’t this where CNN starts panning massive crowds like those seen in Egpyt’s Tahrir Square last year? Isn’t this where the microphone is held up to the lips of a cute female twenty-something protester? Where’s the love?
There are a few reasons why Bahrain has emerged as the Arab Spring’s neglected child: for one, heavyweights like Sunni Saudi Arabia disapprove of the protest movement there. Riyadh’s ties to the Sunni royal family in the Bahraini capital of Manama go way back. And naturally, the Sunni nation is not enamored with the prospect of a new government sympathetic to the nation’s overwhelmingly Shiite population. No friend for the movement there—but they don’t have to look far for support. Nearby Iran, where a Shiite theocracy runs the show, has been vocal in its support and is rumored to be close with one of the main Bahraini opposition parties. The Islamic Republic’s politically radioactive profile has complicated public relations for the opposition despite its efforts to distance itself. Add rumors that protesters are getting weapons from the Iran-allied Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and it’s a real tough sell.
Then there was the perceived “Arab Spring” fatigue on the part of the Western public. They saw governments toppled in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and then, hardly stopping for breath, the crisis in Syria started to unfold into the catastrophe it is today. The media narrative moved on, leaving the interested parties—among them Iran’s state press—to monitor developments.