Nick Kristof live-tweets his Bahrain visa crisis

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof flew to Bahrain and found himself unable to enter the country. So he decided to live-tweet his adventure.

A tweet by NYT columnist Nick Kristof about being denied an entry visa to Bahrain.

This might be the world's first high-profile live-tweets of an entry-visa denial.

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof (@NickKristof), who knows how to use social media in smarter ways than most journalists (see my April 2012 post about his fans using social media to mark his birthday ), found himself denied an entry visa into Bahrain earlier today. He took to Twitter to complain and bring attention to the situation there.

Kristof has written a lot about human rights abuses by Bahrain, an ally of the U.S., so that's why he was denied a visa at the airport. This happened despite the fact that U.S. citizens can transit through the kingdom without a visa.

As I write this, it's been about three hours since he first started tweeting about his adventure (see the first tweet above and in this link) and has so far sent more than 30 tweets, many of them retweeted hundreds of times. As he said, "If I'm going to stay up all night detained in #Bahrain airport, I may as well spend the time tweeting indignantly!." But he also made it clear he has it better than many Baharainis who are tortured for speaking up against the government: "People are feeling way too sorry for me. I'm sitting in a nice Bahrain airport, denied entry, but sitting by Starbucks."

Here are some of the highlights, including some lighter moments (in mostly chronological order, though I've grouped some together):

  • #Bahrain officials acknowledge that US citizens can transit for 72 hours without a visa, but they say I'm on a blacklist
  • So #Bahrain fetes Kim Kardashian and boots me out--I wish I were an int'l affairs expert like Kardashian.
  • Testing alternative ways to slip into Bahrain. My real name is Nick Kardashian? I'm a race car driver? Tear gas salesman?
  • Do you think if I made a Kardashian style sex video, #Bahrain would let me in?
  • Thanks, Twitter friends, for denouncing my sex video idea. My feelings are hurt. Any hackers who can remove me from Bahrain blacklist?
  • Seems as a US taxpayer I shld get access to a country that we support--even if #Bahrain is now a bastion of repression.
  • On the bright side, police aren't beating me up as they might if I were Bahraini. And its a nice airport to spend the night
  • Denying me entry is a reminder that our ally #Bahrain doesn't want witnesses to its nightly repression in Shia villages.
  • The sad thing about #Bahrain is that it is so modern, so educated, historically so tolerant--and now so repressive.
  • This is why Bahrain doesn't want reporters in RT @jihankazerooni: police ordering to spray pepper on women's faces http://fb.me/1qR5LCrGC
  • I really do want to report on repression here in #Bahrain. Maybe I can overfly it and jump out with a parachute?
  • By barring most journalists, Bahrain gets away with brutally crushing protests--using US military equipment. US pretends not to notice.
  • I've got it! I'll put on a Santa Claus costume and slip past immigration! Ho Ho! St. Nick with presents for Bahrain kids!
  • My worst airport detention was Iran, accused of spying. Congo & Sudan also unpleasant detentions. Bahrain piece of cake!
  • I'm on a morning flight out. They say they'll give my my passport back at gate. They're very pleasant as autocrats go
  • Lots of Bahrainis tweeting me about human rights horrors they want me to cover.Sorry I'm kicked out and letting you down
  • Why I want to report in Bahrain RT @TubliOnline: @NickKristof This happened in my village 2 days ago pic.twitter.com/K4BmM2TM
  • Obama admin is pretending not to notice repression in Bahrain RT @Firegal_01: @NickKristof What's the State Dep have to say?
  • To see why #Bahrain is expelling me, see human rights abuses reported here: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en US turns a blind eye
  • I'm being deported, but a local human rights worker, Said Yousif, was arrested here today. His treatment will be worse.

UPDATE as of 7:50 pm ET, about five hours since the first tweet, and it looks like Kristof is on his way out of the country:

  • Now on plane, final stage of being deported from #Bahrain. Sorry I cldnt get in to report on human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, Katie Stanton (@katies), head of international strategy at Twitter (and formerly part of the State Department's Office of Innovation), pointed out that Kristof and Ben Affleck had a short exchange about all this, with references to "Argo," Affleck's movie about a little-known episode of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis:

  • From @NickKristof: Hey, @BenAffleck, you're good at escaping repressive airports in this part of the world! Any tips for escaping #Bahrain?
  • From @BenAffleck: .@NickKristof I'm on my way. Can you stay put for 12 hours?
  • From @NickKristof: Thanks! I'll practice Canadian! RT @BenAffleck: .@NickKristof I'm on my way. Can you stay put for 12 hours?

Here is how NowThisNews, a startup in the web video space, covered the Kristof incident, getting a quote from him as well:

What do you make of this live-tweeting effort? Strikes me as one of the more unusual live-tweeting sessions I've seen (and I had a student who once live-tweeted a Passover seder for a class assignment). What's the most unusual one you've seen? And what about the most effective?

 

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