NYT’s Nicholas Kristof Detained By Bahraini Police

While in Bahrain to witness clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was detained when police “pulled” him into their car. Kristof was present at a protest in Sitra, a city outside of Bahrain’s capital of Manama, when riot police began to fire tear gas and broke up the protest. As Kristof tweeted after the police had put him in their car,

“not sure if I’m being detained or protected.”

Kristof’s colleague Adam Ellick tweeted that he was “dragged” into a police car, and that police (who were from Pakistan) did not allow him to leave.

Kristof was able to post updates on Twitter while in police custody:

“Police seem to think this is awkward, holding me in car while they squelch protest. One very nicely offered me water.”

“Boy, if I were them, I’d take my Blackberry.”

“Policeman in my car is cursing protesters. He says twice he has been injured in last 6 months.”

“He says police are not supposed to beat protesters but says sometimes they have to, to restore order.”

“Sr cop arrived and let me go. My videographer, @aellick, was in different police car and also freed.” #Bahrain

“Adam says his camera got hit by tear gas grenade or rubber bullet. Then a cop hit him and the camera, breaking part of it.”

“The blows came after Adam had shouted twice that he was an American journalist.”

After Kristof was released, Bahrain’s Ministry of the Interior tweeted that he had not been arrested but had been seeking police protection. Kristof responded to the Bahraini government’s comment with this tweet:

“I’m fascinated to learn from #Bahrain govt statement that I wasn’t detained but “sought police protection.” #sarcasm

This last remark of Kristof’s was retweeted by human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja who was with Kristof and Ellick before they were detained.

Alkhawaja comments regularly about the ongoing protests against the ruling Sunni monarchy in Bahrain, which crushed pro-democratic protesters in March after mass demonstrations inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Some Bahrainis have been sentenced to death while others including Alkhawaja’s father, human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, have been given life sentences; her husband has also been imprisoned. At the beginning of December, Zainab Alkhawaja blocked a line of police vehicles even as riot police ran past her and tear gas shells fell near her head. The New York Times has interviewed Zainab Alkhawaja about her ongoing rights activism and the role of her Angry Arabiya twitter feed not only to document the ongoing protest movement in Bahrain, but “in keeping her safe.”

Bahraini Government Hires Former Philadelphia, Miami Police Chief

Bahrain is turning to other countries including Pakistan for its police. Via its own Twitter feed, the Ministry of the Interior tweeted on Thursday that it is just about to sign a contract with John Timoney,” an American adviser who was once a senior officer in New York and was later the police chief of Philadelphia and then of Miami:

Given that Bahrain’s police force is regularly deployed to break up protests, American observers were quick to point out that Mr. Timoney was criticized for the forceful way his officers infiltrated protest groups at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and used force to break up demonstrations at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit meeting in Miami in 2003.

Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who covered the Miami protests, wrote later that what became known as Mr. Timoney’s “Miami Model” of crowd control involved the heavy use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges to disperse protesters.

The Miami Times also notes that Timoney has traveled around the globe to do nothing less than advise “police forces on how to emulate his force’s tactics.”


Previous Care2 Coverage

Bahrain Used Torture, “Excessive Force” on Protesters

16-Year-Old Bahraini Killed by Police Vehicle

Bahraini Nurse Electrocuted, Threatened With Rape While in Prison




Photo of Kristof by World Economic Forum


Gillian Miller
Gillian M6 years ago

Chad, I would agree if journalists respected basic human rights too. Remember that Diana died because she was being chased by journalists who had made her life hell. Fergie was in a private house surrounded by high walls and a picture was taken of her over 1/4 of a mile away topless and sucking someone's toes.

Everyone has a basic right to privacy and journalists ignore that.

Reporting such momentous events means that they are in the thick of it and their lives can be in danger. Many of these people are adrenaline junkies which is why they do it. Reporting these events is important to them and something that we need to know. Sadly, other momentous and important events are ignored by journalists because it doesn't fit polical correctness.

I suppose that, bottom line, journalists ignore rules when it suits them and demand protection when it does. A journalist should not be imprisoned for reporting the news but ought to expect that the police often can't distinguish them or do not have time to.

Gillian Miller
Gillian M6 years ago

Please write letters. I uploaded this 9 days ago and got 4 notes, I am extremely disappointed and hope that others will pick this up and write letters as well.


K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Ellen Mccabe
Ellen m6 years ago

Twitter is proving yo be quite usefull in the right hands! Sorry Justin, Ashton & Alec B....

Chad A.
Chad A6 years ago

There should be some basic protections for journalists that do not involve police "protection." This is not just a problem overseas. Witness NYC and the big round up of journalists along with protesters.

Janice S.
Janice S6 years ago

I am glad he was not injured or taken to jail. He is a hero of mine along with his wife ever since I read HALF THE SKY. It is very important that reporters keep documenting all that goes on in the world-- but sometimes extra measures should be taken to keep them safe.

Theo C.
Theo C6 years ago

This is not an unfamiliar cop. He has harassed me many times. He did so the other day as I went for my walk.

He had another name, he had another face, he had another rank. Same cop.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

I have to wonder why this ex-cop is not in one of our own American jails where he apparently was nothing more than a thug. Bahrain resorting to Pakistani police and this American thug shows they don't care about their people's civil rights and liberties.

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

All of this is lies at the feet of America, just one month before the first protest broke out, the US sold Bahrain $77 million USD of weapons to put down such civil unrest. Actually, the Saudis did much of the fighting.

It appears that America was overrun by its own work, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, a 7 nation, 5 year plan to destabilize the Middle East and to effect regime change.

We just didn't consider that the Bahraini people would join in the unrest, after all, they are truly ruled by a dictatorship..

Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

Nicholas Kristof is a very brave man, so are the rest of the new corp who have been beaten, sexually assaulted and died for covering things they felt needed covering.

But Vance, Mr. Krugman isn't mentioned in the article. I'm kind of confused.