Analysis: UN urges Bahrain to transfer ailing hunger striker

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The story UN urges Bahrain to transfer ailing hunger striker from the April 10 issue of The Independent by Patrick Cockburn is an example of an international news article.

The Bahraini government was under fresh pressure last night as the United Nations said the regime should consider transferring a jailed human rights activist, who is two months into a hunger strike, to Denmark for medical treatment.

This is not a very good lede. First, the writer uses passive voice with " was under." It should have read something like, "The UN renewed pressure on Bahrain." The time element, "last night," is also not in the correct format. It should say "Monday night." The whole lede is pretty long and somewhat confusing and should be broken into two sentences, one about the UN pressure and the other about who this human rights activist is.

The comments from the UN Secretary-General's spokesman came as activists said they were determined to disrupt the Formula 1 Grand Prix due to be held in the island kingdom in two weeks.

This was an awkward way to source the information in the lede. The spokesman (it should read spokesperson, actually, for AP style) should have been moved to the lede and put after the information he/she actually said. Then, the "activists said" source could be moved to the end of the Grand Prix statement. The author could cut the word "due" out as well.

Activists and some British MPs have called for the race to be cancelled, given criticism of Bahrain's human rights record after an uprising by the nation's Shia majority was crushed last year .

This could be reworded to be more concise and to put the news first. The passive "was crushed" is also unclear. Who crushed it? The UN? Activists? I also don't like the wordy "have called" and "to be cancelled." All of those can be changed to increase clarity.

The government has been trying to promote the Grand Prix as a symbol that life in Bahrain is returning to normal, with posters everywhere saying Bahrainis "are all one nation". But the hunger strike of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a veteran human rights campaigner with Danish citizenship, has revived the mainly Shia opposition. This is likely to explode if he dies and yesterday his lawyer expressed concern about his health, given the refusal of the authorities to let anybody see him for several days.

Again, "has been" is not very strong and there is probably a verb out there with more action. There is a punctuation error in the poster quote. It should have the period within the marks. If you are going to use a conjunction in the beginning of a sentence, which should only be done in special circumstances (i.e. not now), at least put a comma behind it. "This is likely to explode" is awkward. What's to explode? The opposition? Can opposition explode? It should be a new sentence at "yesterday his lawyer" because the clause before it is unrelated.

The UN spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told reporters yesterday that "in cases where there is a hunger strike, the health and wellbeing of the person should be the foremost concern".

This is a full quote. Why make it partial unnecessarily? Start with the quote and add "UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said yesterday." Done. Why complicate it?

Bahrain's Supreme Judicial Council had a day earlier refused to hand him over to Denmark.

This reporter really likes to make his writing flowery for no reason. "Had a day earlier" should just be whatever day of the week it was (Sunday, I believe). I also find "hand him over" a little disrespectful. "Release him" might have been better.

The international pressure on Bahrain was reduced in the second half of last year after King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa promised reforms and expressed regrets for excessive repression. But so far only junior officers in the Bahraini security forces have faced punishment.

There is passive voice with "was reduced." See above for comment on conjunctions at the beginnings of sentences.

I was not a fan of this article. I think I could have done better and I'm just a student. This may have been just a brief, but it left me with a lot of questions. I'm still unclear as to who exactly this hunger striker is, what he was protesting, and why Bahrain doesn't want to give him to Denmark. With more sources, this could have been cleared up. Only on quote from the UN guy is pretty thin, I want someone from the Denmark government, someone from the Bahrain government, other activists, etc. The whole Grand Prix angle could have been exploited but wasn't. Formula 1 is taken pretty seriously in other countries and that is a major sporting event. Threatening to cancel the event is huge and should have been looked into. Besides the reporting errors, the writing was not very good and often overcomplicated things. Some basic news writing techniques would have really benefited this piece.

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This page contains a single entry by ryanx790 published on April 9, 2012 6:41 PM.

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