Four US journalists detained in Bahrain: journalists group

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Four Journalists Arrested In Bahrain

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. journalist and three members of her camera crew were detained in Bahrain on Sunday, Reporters Without Borders said on Monday, urging Bahrain to release the four American citizens "rapidly and without harm."

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In a statement, the group described Anna Day and her three colleagues as experiencedjournalists, who had most recently worked on virtual reality documentaries in Egypt and Gaza.

Bahraini police said earlier they had detained four foreign nationals. Bahrain's interior ministry said in a statement the four were "suspected of offences including entering Bahrain illegally having submitted false information to border staff, and participating in an unlawful gathering."

The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports that U.S. citizens had been arrested but declined further comment.

Related: See photos of recent unrest in Bahrain:

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Four US journalists detained in Bahrain: journalists group
MANAMA, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 13: Bahraini protesters are seen during clashes with security forces following a demonstration to mark 5th Bahrain uprising anniversary in Manama, Bahrain on February 13, 2016. (Photo by Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANAMA, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 13: Bahraini protesters are seen during clashes with security forces following a demonstration to mark 5th Bahrain uprising anniversary in Manama, Bahrain on February 13, 2016. (Photo by Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANAMA, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 13: Bahraini protesters run from security forces during clashes with security forces following a demonstration to mark 5th Bahrain uprising anniversary in Manama, Bahrain on February 13, 2016. (Photo by Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MANAMA, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 13: Bahraini protesters wearing masks, are seen during clashes with security forces following a demonstration to mark 5th Bahrain uprising anniversary in Manama, Bahrain on February 13, 2016. (Photo by Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Bahraini police vehicle patrols a street during clashes with protesters following a demonstration to mark the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising, on February 12, 2015, in the mainly Shiite village of Sitra, south of Manama. / AFP / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Bahraini protester takes cover from tear gas during clashes with riot police following a demonstration to mark the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising, on February 12, 2015, in the mainly Shiite village of Sitra, south of Manama. / AFP / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Bahraini protester shouts anti-government slogans during a march in Daih, Bahrain, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Police dispersed the march, and clashes erupted between young protesters throwing stones and riot police firing tear gas. Police were out in force nationwide, with marches and clashes widespread in opposition towns and neighborhoods in the run-up to Sunday's fifth anniversary of Bahrain's Arab Spring uprising. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Bahraini protesters take part in a demonstration to mark the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising, on February 12, 2015, in the mainly Shiite village of Sitra, south of Manama. / AFP / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Bahraini protester shouts slogans during clashes with riot police following a demonstration to mark the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising, on February 12, 2015, in the mainly Shiite village of Sitra, south of Manama. / AFP / MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
A police armored vehicle splattered with paint bombs fires tear gas toward Bahraini anti-government protesters during clashes in Sitra, Bahrain, on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Hundreds of Bahraini youths shouting anti-government slogans have taken to the streets in Bahrain despite a heavy police presence to mark the fifth anniversary of an uprising calling for political change in the tiny island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
A masked Bahraini anti-government protester, watches for police during clashes in Sitra, Bahrain, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Hundreds of Bahraini youths shouting anti-government slogans have taken to the streets in Bahrain despite a heavy police presence to mark the fifth anniversary of an uprising calling for political change in the tiny island kingdom. Graffiti on the wall reads "Al-Nimr Strike," the name the opposition chose for this year's anniversary protests, in honor of Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, seen in stencil, who was executed last month in Saudi Arabia, and who had been a supporter of anti-government activists in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Bahraini anti-government protesters, holding a gas mask and a paint bomb, take a break between clashes with riot police, in Sitra, Bahrain, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Hundreds of Bahraini youths shouting anti-government slogans have taken to the streets in Bahrain despite a heavy police presence to mark the fifth anniversary of an uprising calling for political change in the tiny island kingdom. Graffiti on the wall reads, "Freedom" and "Down Hamad," referring to Bahrain's king. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
A Bahraini anti-government protester standing amid clouds of tear gas fired by riot police during clashes in Sitra, Bahrain, on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. Hundreds of Bahraini youths shouting anti-government slogans have taken to the streets in Bahrain despite a heavy police presence to mark the fifth anniversary of an uprising calling for political change in the tiny island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
A police armored vehicle splattered with Bahraini anti-government protesters' paint bombs chases demonstrators in Sitra, Bahrain, on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. Bahraini youths pelted armored vehicles and police jeeps with paint bombs, stones and petrol bombs after police moved in quickly with tear gas to quash an anti-government protest, one of several demonstrations held in the run-up to Sunday's 5th anniversary of Bahrain's Arab Spring uprising. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
A Bahraini anti-government protester carries a stone while others relax between rounds of clashes with riot police in Sitra, Bahrain, on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. Bahraini youths pelted armored vehicles and police jeeps with paint bombs, stones and petrol bombs after police moved in quickly with tear gas to quash the anti-government protest, one of several demonstrations held in the run-up to Sunday's 5th anniversary of Bahrain's Arab Spring uprising. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
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A representative for Day's family rejected any suggestion that the four were involved in any illegal behavior or non-journalistic activities.

The Arabic-language Mira'at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Mirror) said the four were detained in Sitra, a Shi'ite village east of Manama, on Sunday while covering clashes between local demonstrators and security forces.

The demonstration was meant to mark the fifth anniversary of widespread Arab Spring protests in 2011 mainly by Shi'ite Muslims demanding reforms and a bigger share in government.

Those protests were put down violently by Bahrain security units with help from security forces from Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. But the kingdom, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, continues to see bouts of unrest, especially in villages where Shi'ites are a majority.

A friend of Day's, who asked not to be named because of her own work as an independent journalist in hostile areas, said that government accreditation for foreign correspondents in Bahrain can be difficult to get and can imply restrictions, so freelancers commonly work without it.

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"It is sad that the fifth anniversary of the 2011 protests has been marked by the arrest of yet morejournalists in Bahrain, which has since become one of the worst jailers of journalists in the Arab world," said Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and north Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international advocacy group.

The Committee called for the release of the four and noted that at least six other journalists are currently imprisoned in Bahrain in connection with their work.

Day has reported in the Middle East, northern Africa, India, Brazil and Mexico and her work has been published by the New York Times, CNN, Al Jazeera English, Huffington Post, CBS, Daily Beast and other media.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi in Dubai and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry and Dan Grebler)

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