State Censorship in Disguise

Another international publication contacted me to elicit my views regarding the Ministry of Information’s administrative order requiring all websites to register with them, and what actions are being taken by webmasters, if any, to counteract that order. He began by asking me if any blogger has actually registered with them so far, what you read below is my response to his questions.

None, as far as I know. Not a single blog or online forum has registered nor are any intending to do so, despite the insistence of the Ministry of Information that they have in fact received “a number” of registration applications. I would like to see those numbers, I would guess they will never produce those, the Ministry of Information is not known for its transparency.

As to the actions I proposed, number 1 (non registration) seems to be a universal agreement between all webmasters I know. The government would probably produce some at the end of the 6 months drive. Although I didn’t notice any ads, educational campaign nor anything to suggest that there is indeed a “drive”.

I’m considering the petition route, but judging how petitions in this country riles up the government with mass incarcerations and the increase in volume of its stooge press (Al-Ayam, Akbar Al-Khaleej (Arabic) and Bahrain Tribune (English) and until very recently the GDN) which happily brand anyone standing up for rights as an insurgent at best, and an outright traitor at worst, I’ll have to be careful. I do not relish spending any time in prison, which is a very very real threat. Especially if they throw the full weight of The Press and Publications Law 47 of 2002 at you.

Due to our reactions (the bloggers and the GDN columnists) , the Ministry has come out and categorically said (via the undersecretary Mahmood Al-Mahmood) that registration is no longer “mandatory”, however a couple of days after that, another undersecretary at the same ministry, Dr. Abdulla Yateem, the press and publications undersecretary, commented on an article on Al-Wasat Newspaper with fire and brimstone [Al-Wasat, Arabic] where the whole registration process is to (1) protect the authors’ copyright, (2) hold people liable for what they write and to (3) protect against child pornography and (4) “immoral” sites being created in Bahrain. Any moderately observant person would find complete contradictions in these goals. Not, apparently, anyone at the ministry of disinformation of course.

What comes next is anybody’s guess. We are determined not to register, especially that “they” declared that it is not mandatory, however, you can rest assured that they will try to close EVERY site that does not register by taking us to court for anything that we have written which could even in the slightest be considered libelous. The cut-off date is October 1st, 2005. If it comes to that, obviously a lot of people will have their arms twisted or you will see the death of the internet as far as non-anonymous posting is concerned, the whole movement will be driven underground and will mushroom completely out of their control. You will probably find that most IPs blocked completely, so it would be worth our while NOW to investigate proxy services through which we can reach our sites. Incidentally, it seems that “they” with Batelco have blocked most if not all proxy sites recently, this is just 10 days ago, which should be a harbinger for what is to come.

There have been (shy) protests mainly in support of Ali Abdulimam and the government’s refusal to remove his (and his colleagues) travel restrictions and more importantly not dropping the case against them. The last protest also was to protest against the registration drive. You can view full coverage of Ali’s demos etc at Chan’ad’s blog and also Free Ali blog which is an aggregate of all the articles Bahraini bloggers have written about the subject as well as some pertinent press articles.

What are the lessons learnt? NONE! As far as the government is concerned it cannot be seen to lose face, so even if one of its morons brings out a completely ludicrous administrative order such as this one, they will not back down. So, they put their wagons in a circle and gerrymander everyone to “see their way”.

As far as bloggers are concerned, the lesson learnt is: BLOG ANONYMOUSLY!

17 thoughts on “State Censorship in Disguise”

  1. Pingback: Mahmood’s Den
  2. State Censorship in Disguise

    Hi there

    I am in the states at the moment and someone came over to me with a copy of the Wall Street HJournal – we’re talking about a highly influential global publication here – and showed me the front page for yesterday “After High Hopes, Democracy Project in Bahrain Falters” with a picture of Ali Abdulreman (their spelling).

    I am left speechless. There are many great things about bahrain which is why I live there. But it has attracted the following gloibal news stories in the last year – 75% are negative.

    Big brother – negative
    Nancy Ajram – negative
    F1 – positive
    Bloggers – negative

    Why can’t these issues be addressed and the government hire proper experienced (Western)PR and marketing people?

  3. Re: State Censorship in Disguise

    [quote]Why can’t these issues be addressed and the government hire proper experienced (Western)PR and marketing people? [/quote]

    PR wont help to sell stupid choices. They need to make proper choices when it comes to their policies. No amount of PR will help to make these things look good. It is the government and their choices that need to be addressed, not PR.

  4. State Censorship in Disguise

    [quote]ANON: Why can’t these issues be addressed and the government hire proper experienced (Western)PR and marketing people? [/quote]

    Why do you assume that proper and experienced PR people must be western? I’m sure there’s plenty of talented people among your own countrymen – don’t shove them aside.

    Aliandra

  5. State Censorship in Disguise

    [quote]Another international publication contacted me to illicit my views [/quote]
    I think you want the word ‘elicit

  6. State Censorship in Disguise

    thisis the Johnster – I posted the above ‘anonymous’ as i wasn’t logged on (posting was at 12 may 01.17pm)

    MALIK, please quote me in FULL and not selectively, read my post it says:

    “Why can’t these issues be addressed and the government hire proper experienced (Western)PR and marketing people? ”

    ie Address the issues and then communicate them

    ALIANDRA, why Western PR firms? because it appeared in Western media and you need that mindset to communicate wih them. You’re right in saying that there are some talented Bahraini lobbyists, marketeers and PR people but

    1) they are not based in NY or London or Frankfurt
    2) they don’t have the contacts
    3) There aren’t enough of them

    Further to the above post, I woke up this morning (in the US at the moment) and heard the radio station joking about Bahrain (ignorant and couldn’t even pronounce it) and specifically about the plan to make a seahorse shaped island for $3bn !

    So, our tally is now:-
    Big brother – negative
    Nancy Ajram – negative
    F1 – positive
    Al Khawaja – negative (I forgot this one, but it made the FT)
    Bloggers – negative
    Seahorse Island – negative

    The Johnster

  7. Re: State Censorship in Disguise

    [quote]Further to the above post, I woke up this morning (in the US at the moment) and heard the radio station joking about Bahrain (ignorant and couldn’t even pronounce it) and specifically about the plan to make a seahorse shaped island for $3bn !
    So, our tally is now:-
    Big brother – negative
    Nancy Ajram – negative
    F1 – positive
    Al Khawaja – negative (I forgot this one, but it made the FT)
    Bloggers – negative
    Seahorse Island – negative

    The Johnster [/quote]

    The Saudis have hired PR companies here in the DC area and spent millions on adds and other things to try and make their image better. It will never work, media, especially American media, is driven by sensationalism. So as long as you get things like Nancy Ajram, Big Brother and other such nonsense, they will ignore anything positive. No amount of money for PR, no matter where they come from, is going to help the image.

    What will help the image is to actually change the image. Change society so people have a choice, so those who decide to watch Ajram can do so without fear. Change so Big Brother can be watched without fear. As long as this nonsense is happening it is the only thing that will be covered in the news here.

  8. State Censorship in Disguise

    As a webmaster of [url]alduraz.net[/url], I’ve been contacted by an official “friend” at the MOI who advised me to come forward and register the site. My answer was: 3 of my domains are “officially” blocked so I guess my website is outlawed, I like it that way and have no intention to change that status!

  9. State Censorship in Disguise

    Erm….hello….yes…did you read what i wrote

    (1) Address the issues

    that’s number 1 let me repreat, A D D R E S S T H E I S S U E S

    Then

    (2) Sort out the PR

    Get it?

    Johnster

  10. Re: State Censorship in Disguise

    Excellent. We do need to coordinate our effort, because if we act individually they will take us one by one to ‘the right path.’

    Would you please email me at mahmood_at_mahmood_dot_tv to discuss this?

  11. Re: State Censorship in Disguise

    Thanks Bob, that spelling mistake is fixed. I share your hope that this and other orders should fade into memory. It would have been much more condusive to this country, especially considering what it is going through at the moment, to have thought a little harder and evaluated these orders impact on the fragile peace and democracy.

  12. Re: State Censorship in Disguise

    If anyone can provide a PR justification over Khawaja or the handling of blogging issues then they’re geniuses. To be fair, neither Nancy Ajram nor Big Brother were the government’s fault -but were rather the Islamist opposition trying to intimidate the government into putting down more social controls.

  13. State Censorship in Disguise

    This is getting very boring – get with the programme!

    NO YOU CANNOT JUST DO PR AND SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF BAHRAIN’S DETERIORATING INTERNATIONAL IMAGE, that’s not what I ever suggested.

    Please do read my words (1) fix the problem (2) tell people you’ve fixed it.

    And, yes, Nancy Ajram and Big Brother wre the government’s problem (problem not fault) in that the outcome is damaging to Bahrain’s image. If an action has a serious consequence for the country, then the government should be involved in resolving it.

    Johnster

  14. State Censorship in Disguise

    If only the government gives the opposition a fair chance of media coverage to their activities, similar to those defined as negative activities, if only that happens, maybe we will see reasonable responses from the opposition as they will no longer feel outsiders and most of the forums and blogs that criticize the government will no longer exist.

    If only the government understands that celebrating the 40th anniversary of being the prime minister kills any PR plan, then things will be different!

    The what/if scenario goes on and one but that fact remains unchanged.. They don’t know and they don’t want to know!

    Bahritish

  15. Hi there!

    Hows life in Bahrain??

    >NO YOU CANNOT JUST DO PR AND SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF BAHRAIN’S >DETERIORATING INTERNATIONAL IMAGE

    First off all: capslock sucks.

    Err, wtf are you talking about. We hardly know you guys exist so there is no image that can deteriorate.

    This is not an insult, I am from another tiny country you guys don’t know. Its called Holland, the Netherlands, Nederland, the low countries; whatever. I live in the beautiful city of Amsterdam.

    I cannot read your newspapers but in German and French newspapers my country gets bashed for having a good policy on soft-drugs (its partially legalised).

    Be proud of the difference between you and your neighbours; cause that is what defines YOU.
    Koen

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