Sorry your Majesty, I wish it worked like that…ٍ

11 Jul, '06

Bahraini journalist Sawsan Al-Sha'er in an audience with the king of BahrainTime and again we are privileged to hear that our king, his majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Esa Al-Khalifa, is fully committed to see his vision realised in the reforms he initiated since he gained the throne. Time and again he unequivocally came out and said that he is for the freedoms of expression and he is for the improvement of the Bahraini people’s lives. At those times we get some articles praising his stance and positions in the national press; but only for those to be forgotten rather quickly and the same brain-dead heavy handed censorship re-applied, as if nothing has happened.

We are in one of those “reminder” periods once again…

A few weeks ago renowned Bahraini writer and “The Last Word” television program host, Sawsan Al-Sha’er, hosted Afaf Al-Jamri in that show in which they talked about a wide range of topics, including the dearth of parliamentary achievements in their inaugural term and other topics; however, the television censor took it upon him or herself to decide that it was against the national interest to broadcast those “derogatory” segments and editing scissors had chopped a few segments before it went to air.

That incensed Al-Sha’er, rightly, so she boycotted the program and stopped presenting it, the press took it up (arabic) and the king took notice (arabic), and once again had to step in to tell people that he respects differing opinions and that freedoms of expression are sacrosanct in Bahrain during an audience with his majesty yesterday with Ms. Al-Sha’er.

That’s all very laudable. But, I’m afraid, your majesty, that once again your Ministry of Information and the rest of the government apparatus will take note of your valuable advice for just a few days, “until things calm down”, and then they will unashamedly go back to exactly what they’ve been used to, and over-stepping the line and ignoring citizen’s rights is a certain reality.

Therefore, I respectfully suggest, your majesty, that as you are serious about these issues, and as you are the head of all powers in the Kingdom, that you issue a law – yes ignoring parliament – and put it in the constitution if you must, that will guarantee these rights in such a language that does not invite haphazard interpretation which could once again restrict our rights.

If I may further suggest, your majesty, as all advanced and most advancing countries do not have a Ministry of Information, it would do the country good to once and for all dismantle it and free the television, broadcasting, and press markets once and for all; in one stroke you would have saved your government an inordinate amount of money and much more heartache as well as increase our good shares in the world’s psyche that we are indeed a developing nation who no longer believe in packaged state propaganda.

As constructive criticism is also very high on your majesty’s mind, you might want to remove those things that people have been constructively and passionately complaining about: I draw your majesty’s attention to the inappropriate Assembly Law which took only 12 minutes to be approved by your Shura Council and which specifically flies in the face of your citizen’s freedoms and rights as human beings apart from being at variance with the various human rights protocols which the kingdom is party to, repeal Law 56 of 2002 which equated torturers with their victims, repeal Law 47 of 2002 which shackled the press and freedoms of expression, re-distributed electoral districts with fairness and amend the constitution in such a way that the parliament truly represents your people, the ability to question any minister – including the prime minister – in open parliamentary session would also be a good idea and will demonstrate that we are truly a transparent and civil society.

I am sure that there are a lot more things I can propose, your majesty, however, I shall refrain from doing so at this moment as I believe the above are sufficient to allow your citizens to live with dignity and if promulgated, would return you back to your rightful place, carried with pride on the shoulders of your happy citizens.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Munther says:

    Hello Mahmood..

    Yet again the Ministry of information proves to be nothing but a waste of space and money. This ministry is useless and had served its purpose ages ago (before the arrival of our King). The Ministry’s main products (Btv and CH 55) are big failures in the age of globalization and just put the name of our country to shame when compared with other government owned channels of the region (putting us on par with the Saudis)

    What annoys me is that we keep HEARING that this ministry is marked as redundant and therefore will be cancelled. But I can’t see this happening in the near future for one reason or another.

  2. AbuRasool says:

    An interesting development.
    King Hamad is following a well trodden path. Autocrats love personal gestures. Most recently president Mubarak of Egypt “intervened personally in the case of an Egyptian student who failed her secondary school exams after criticising the United States and her own government in an essay”.

    Mubarak was lauded by his state-controlled media that “that Egypt, despite all appearances, is a democracy”.

    Like her Egyptian counterparts, Ms Sawsan Al-Sha’eral, will be uncontrollably euphoric. What a waste of a talent.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Although I agree with a lot of what Mahmood’s said about MoI etc, there’s no way that King Hamad can be compared with the dead hand of Mubarak. The big problem with a lot of political debate in Bahrain is that its infantalised by absurd rhetoric and idiot comparisons. I suppose its part of the region’s mindset – you’re either with us or against us…you’re either on our side or your Hosni Mubarak or Gadafy or some other nutcase. Tiresome.

  4. sunrunner says:

    Wonderful post, Mahmood.

    And anonymous (above) — unfortunately, the kind of “us and them” thinking you speak of seems to be a world-wide epidemic right now, and not indigenous to any region.

  5. AbuRasool says:

    “Part of the region’s mindset”? What next? It is in their genes?

    Seriously! Is it hallal to take up some of the commonalities in the behaviour of autocrats (whether they are emperor Bokasa, king Hamad or president Mubarak) without dismissiming their individual eccentricities ?

    I see differences between the king and the president (and, of the coures, bewteen the pair and the late emperor). Each has his own personal predilections. Mubarak, an ex-air force officer, prefers to dress in civilian cloths. while the king of Bahrain simply loves to show his personae attired in an admiral uniform.

    There are a lot of similarities between king Hamad and president Mubarak. Some of these may be explained by the ‘advice’ both receive. The 2002 constitution, for example was costume tailored, to use the words of Dr. Abbas Hillal of the Bahraini Bar Association, by one of Mubarak own stable of legal experts.

    I thought it was in order to compare both attempted to gain some democratic credentials by over-ruling unconstitutional decisions by their underlings.

    The point remains, in Egypt and Bahrain, that both autocrats dislike the rule of law and do their utmost to block institutionalisation of the very rights that Egyptian and Bahrain constitutions formally stipulate. Both have personalised their regime to the degree that their personal intervention is required for a student to write an essay and for a journalist to express an opinion. AbuRasool

  6. ah, and just remind me please:
    who established the 2002 constitution in the first place; that allows for a parliament that has no real powers?, who carefully selected and ‘appointed’ the Shura Council members? and who issued Law 56 of 2002 and others?!

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