Bahrain promises media freedoms amid protest calls

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahrain's security forces set up checkpoints and fanned out on patrols Sunday as opposition groups blanketed social media sites with calls to stage the first major anti-government protests in the Gulf since the uprising in Egypt.
The wide-ranging clampdown appeared directed toward Bahrain's Shi'ite majority — which had led the drive for Monday's rallies — and reflected the increasing worries of the Sunni rulers who have already doled out cash and promised greater media reforms in an effort to quell the protest fervor.
A prominent human rights activist predicted "chaos and bloodshed" if attempts are made to crush the planned demonstrations.
The tiny kingdom of Bahrain is among the most politically volatile in the Gulf and holds important strategic value for the West as the home as the US Navy's 5th Fleet. Bahrain's Shi'ites — accounting for nearly 70 percent of the population — have long complained of systematic discrimination by the ruling Sunni dynasty, whose crackdown on dissent last year touched off riots and clashes.
Shi'ite-led opposition groups and others have joined calls for the demonstrations on a symbolic day — the anniversary of Bahrain's 2002 constitution that brought some pro-democracy reforms such as an elected parliament.