There is marginal improvement in this year’s Bahrain Press Freedom Index released by RSF. In 2006 we gained a few places up to 111, but to put this rank in perspective, I have compiled the following table to show how bad our position is compared to Kuwait, the Emirates and Qatar:

[table id=1 /]

What affected our rank in 2006 is mainly the vicious attack by the Ministry of Information on websites and blogs which it arbitrarily blocked without any recourse to the judicial authorities. Their are about 20 sites blocked now (listed in the sidebar) most probably due to their political or (ir)religious content, thereby, the Ministry continues to try to control our thoughts through the use of telex-age modes of thinking in the Internet 2.0 age!

What can we deduce from these rankings now?

Very basically, it seems that a “non-democratic” countries like Qatar and the UAE are outstripping us consistently. Their rankings are improving year on year. The only other democracy on this side of the Gulf, Kuwait, is also exhibiting wonderful improvements over the last 5 years. While we, in Bahrain, the supposed democracy that was once lauded by the Almighty Bush are continuously on the decrease, our current position of 111 is no where near the Euphoric rank of 67 achieved in 2002.

We have a lot to do to regain that rightful position, and the formula for re-achieving that position is rather simple in theory and practice:

  • remove the current Press & Publications Law by Decree number 47 of 2002
  • remove jail penalties on journalists and freedoms of expression
  • ensure that only the independent judicial authorities have the power to shut down papers and judge libel cases rather than the Minister of Information
  • remove the restriction on Internet sites completely, any blocking attempt is futile anyway as it is extremely easy to go beyond a block in the first place using simple and available tools

Is anyone listening?