MANAMA, Oct 31 (Reuters) – Bahrain has blocked several Web sites for violating a reporting ban in the case of a government adviser who was deported after alleging election irregularities.
Authorities imposed a ban on publishing information about the case of the adviser, British citizen Salah al-Bander, who was sacked and deported to Britain in September for what a minister said was an attempt to foment civil strife in the Gulf state.
The case, known as Bandergate, initially made headlines in the country which is due to hold parliamentary and municipal elections on Nov. 25. Officials say the reporting ban was imposed to ensure an impartial investigation.
“The information ministry has decided to close a number of Bahraini and foreign Web sites … These sites transgressed a legal decision prohibiting the discussion of the case of the accused Salah al-Bander,” Hassan Oun, director of press and publications at the ministry, said in a statement.
“The information ministry will refer the owners of these sites to the judges for not cooperating and complying with the law,” said the statement obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.
Among the blocked Web sites was popular Bahraini blog www.mahmood.tv which is often a forum for political debate and government criticism. It re-opened under www.alyousif.tv, with a photograph of site owner Mahmood al-Yousif wearing a gag.
“It’s unreasonable. Whether you like it or not, everybody is discussing the Bandergate issue,” Yousif told Reuters. “The main issue here is much bigger than Bandergate or registering Web sites. They’re trying to get us to rescind our public freedoms.”
An Information Ministry official, who declined to be named, said some sites were blocked because they did not register with the government. The official said the law requiring registration aimed to prevent misinformation and insults against the state.
Sectarian tensions often cast a shadow over politics in Bahrain, a U.S. ally which is ruled by Sunni Muslims but has a Shi’ite majority.
((Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; editing by Robert Woodward; +973-1752 4430; Fax + 973 17536194; Email: email@example.com))
The story is now on the wires, that means by tomorrow morning hundreds of papers will pick it up…
and I have just been informed that the Ministry of Information has submitted cases against “websites” with the Public Prosecutor who, in turn, started its investigation over the Ministry’s claims.
I fervently hope that the Public Prosecutor will show its independence by throwing the cases out, as they should be.