What possible service does blocking access to information, any type of information, do to a community? The only effect that these restrictions can bring to is the a continued regression into an information black hole which ultimately leads to the regression of a whole nation in its development and competitive chances in a very fast changing world.
Some would say that certain kind of information must be censored due to the community sensibilities; however, I contend that if the only way to defend those sensibilities is by banning access to competing views, then those sensibilities are by definition too weak to withstand the challenge and should be discarded. Hence, the recent decision by the Ministry of Information to block some sites it purports contain material “alien to our culture” – which has become its trademarked cry for imposing its ill-conceived Big Brotherly restrictions – then the question is: is our culture and moral fiber so weak that they cannot withstand the challenge posed by these websites and the ideas contained within them?
If the Ministry claims that a site has been blocked because it contains irreligious material, is our great religion that weak that it cannot withstand questions and doubts? Questions which some might perceive as genuine, and by seeking their answer one might grow closer to the Creator? What if that question, in a person’s own mind at the very worst case renders an answer opposite to the desired effect and the person forsakes Allah’s embrace, who are we – mere mortals – to judge that character? Isn’t judgment is the sole domain of Allah and it is up to him to decide what he wants to do with that person? That responsibility most certainly does not fall on the Ministry of Information’s shoulders.
Then who outsourced the task of adjudicating what is right and what is wrong to the Ministry of Information? I most certainly have not and I have a God given right to decide for myself what I deem to be right or wrong. It is I who shall be challenged on the Day of Judgment. No one else is going to take my place then.
We now come to the current fiasco of the Ministry of Information deciding to act once again to block access to information; this time it is Google Earth, a free global service of geographic and satellite imaging information that anyone in the world today is familiar with, wether by direct interaction through its supplied application, or by watching various television stations using that very service in order to lend credence to their news reports by showing their viewers the locations they are reporting about.
There is even a big community of users of Google Earth who have documented every attack, every bomb and almost every fatality in Lebanon and Israel, yet, the Ministry of Information deems this service unnecessary and should be restricted.
One would question the rationale behind such a decision. I myself cannot find a reason other than the Ministry wanting us Bahrainis to collectively put and keep our heads in the sand and be unknowledgeable about our country, a country which is constituted of some 33 islands and the vast majority of its citizens do not know more than 5 or 6 island names, let alone their locations. They maybe do not want us to see how the sea has been blocked from access? Or maybe marvel at the architectural and landscaping splendour of some houses and islands? Or not follow up on our investments in mega projects like Amwaj, Durrat Al-Bahrain and others and just believe the developers when they say that the islands are 99% completed than what the satellite pictures show?
I concede that some of these images are dated, and I also agree that some military sensitive areas have been obliterated (see various areas in Israel for example and the United States and possibly others) but they do show at least something that we can refer to in our geographic interest. If Google did block sensitive areas in other countries, isn’t it the Ministry of Information’s responsibility to actually find the mechanism to get Google to block some sensitive areas in Bahrain too, rather than opt for the cheapest shot and banning us, everyone in Bahrain, from seeing our own country from space?
I am completely opposed to the restriction of access to information, any information, and I demand to be treated as an adult who knows what is right and wrong by myself without having to seek permission from anyone, especially a government agency which has time and again demonstrated its complete disconnect with the very essence of its mandate. Nor do I need any false protection that this Ministry offers. I have my upbringing and my religious and ethical beliefs to thank for my moral guide, rather than having the Ministry’s skewed moral interpretations be imposed on me which I should regard as better than mine.
It is high time that this Ministry is dissolved just as other countries in the region have done. In this day and age, the only thing that this kind of government agency provides is blatant and exposed propaganda, thanks to the various free media outlets available all around us, and not just through the Internet.
By using Google Earth I came to know more about my beloved country than the Ministry has provided throughout its existence. Google Earth helped me become even more patriotic to these islands, than the Ministry has caused any citizen to be by spending untold amounts of badly needed money which could have been employed in various avenues to better the lives of the good residents of this country.
Remove blocks to information. Let us be the judge of what is good and bad. The only damage these blocks do is to ourselves and the development of this country.