DUBAI - Bahrain has announced the "temporary" suspension of a newspaper close to the Shiite opposition, drawing condemnation from a human rights group which said Manama was seeking to crush dissent.
"The Information Affairs Authority has temporarily suspended Al-Wasat newspaper until further notice," the Bahrain News Agency reported late Thursday.
"This is due to its violation of the law and repeated dissemination of information that affects national unity and the kingdom's relationship with other countries," it added.
Bahrain has seen frequent unrest since the minority Sunni rulers of the small Gulf kingdom crushed a Shiite-led uprising for reform four years ago.
At the height of the 2011 uprising, Al-Wasat was suspended by authorities, and its chief editor Mansoor al-Jamri was tried and fined for allegedly publishing false information. It was later allowed to reopen.
The US-based Human Rights First watchdog criticised the latest move to close the newspaper.
"The immediate suspension of Al-Wasat newspaper in Bahrain is another seriously alarming, if predictable, move from the Bahraini government in silencing all opposition voices and crushing dissent," said Human Rights First's Brian Dooley.
The watchdog described Al-Wasat as an independent and widely respected newspaper.
Dooly urged the administration of US President Barack Obama to reconsider its decision to lift a ban on arms sales to Bahrain's "repressive regime".
At the end of June the United States said it was resuming security aid to Bahrain's armed forces, citing "meaningful progress" on human rights.
Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, is seen as a vital partner in the international coalition against the Islamic State extremist group that controls significant portions of Iraq and Syria.
At least 89 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since 2011, while hundreds have been arrested and put on trial, human rights groups say.