Two Bahrain-based journalists, including a reporter for The Associated Press, were blocked from entering the United Arab Emirates on Monday under apparent new restrictions by Gulf Arab states.
Reem Khalifa and her husband, Mansoor al-Jamri, chief editor for Bahrain's independent Al Wasat newspaper, said they were told by authorities at Dubai International Airport that they were on a list to deny entry.
No further explanations were immediately given, but it appears part of tighter coordination between Gulf allies to control and monitor journalists, activists and others in the region.
Like all Gulf partners, the UAE has expanded crackdowns on perceived political dissent since the Arab Spring, including charging 94 people last month with conspiring to overthrow the ruling system. But it still remains among the most open countries in the Gulf for journalists, researchers and scholars.
Bahrain's 2-year-old uprising is a critical issue for Gulf leaders, who want to safeguard the ruling families across the region.
Khalifa and her husband — on a private visit to Dubai — closely cover Bahrain's struggles between majority Shiites and the Sunni rulers in the strategic kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Khalifa had visited Dubai last year without incident. Al-Jamri was among the winners in 2011 of the International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
A senior UAE official said airport immigration issues fall under Dubai police, which had no immediate comment. Bahrainis and other citizens from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council — as well as many Western passport holders — can enter the UAE without a pre-arranged visa.
Bahrain, however, has imposed a special journalist visa that has sharply limited outside media access to the country.
Last week, the UAE also denied entry to a prominent academic from the London School of Economics who was scheduled to speak about Bahrain at a conference on the Arab Spring.
The UAE's Foreign Ministry said Monday that Kristian Coates Ulrichsen was not allowed into the country because his work has been critical of Bahrain's monarchy, which is closely backed by other Gulf leaders. The UAE said "non-constructive" views on Bahrain are unwelcome.