Some good news for a change!
The State Commissioner Committee in Egypt has rejected the request made by the judge Abdel Fattah Mourad to block 51 websites and blogs deemed insulting the state’s dignity and threatening Egypt’s interests. In the meantime, the investigation on blogger Amr Gharbia, who was charged for defaming Judge Mourad, has been suspended: “PC Police declared that Gharbia’s blog had merely hosted comments insulting the judge; as the comments did not come from him, he was absolved of the charge,”Â said IFEX in its statement issued yesterday.
I am glad that this case is being resolved to the benefit of freedom of expression and hope that HRInfo will continue to sue the plagiarist judge and call from his removal from office.
As importantly, a precedent has also been set in that the investigative committee ascertained that a blogger is not responsible for comments entered on his or her site as we have no reasonable control on those comments or commentors.
Congratulations to Amr and the bloggingÂ community on this good news. May we get more of its like.
There is an excellent investigative and opinion piece in Al-Wasat today about blogs and blogging in Bahrain by Adel Marzooq (Arabic). He raises quite a number of questions which require some mulling over and addressed – maybe at our next bloggers’ gathering or through a series of posts (or podcasts?) as thinking about them can enrich the blogging experience here.
He purports for instance that Al-Wasat is the only national newspaper giving blogs full attention, and that is very true, we are not mentioned on a regular basis in any of the other Arabic papers. Both English papers do cover us quite well with features and reports. The other Arabic papers might want to investigate why Al-Wasat is choosing to dedicate an editor to follow our writings, that might open up an avenue to them which has so far escaped them. I would refer them to what Dr. Gergash thinks of blogs and how the political leadership is viewing this new media.
Another issue Adel raises is the cliquey nature of blogs in Bahrain as he categorises us in various strata: bourgoise, personal in nature, political, opposition, activist, little people, etc.
He also suggests that a state of “war” exists in the Bahraini blogosphere as some choose to have only their close blogfriends in their links sections and fight tooth and nail to remove any “outsider” to be considered for inclusion in that blogroll, which clearly demonstrates the cliquiness of the enterprise, he claims. I am not sure I agree with his assertions; as an example, I can say from personal experience that I removed the blogroll because it got to be too long and messy to have, and as I have the aggigator for Bahraini blogs anyway, I just link to one site which contains all of those that I track on a daily basis. The other non-Bahraini sites I do read are all publicly available in my bloglines list. It’s just how I choose to “neatify” things, and I’m anal about that!
He’s got other points of view as well as far as the effectiveness of this new medium and of course its reach in the community, which he says is starting to erode the traditional fora, the main reason of which is the easy availability of free hosting platforms and of course the ability of the writer to be his own master, rather than be beholden to forum moderators.
It’s a good read as I said and is an honest attempt to address blogs in the first serious major Arabic national newspaper in Bahrain.
Well done my friend and thank you very much for your attention. Now we need to talk to the Shura Councilors to ensure that they don’t leave us high and dry when the new Press & Publications Law is discussed.
The Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich has released an in-depth report about blogs and forums in Bahrain and how they affected the political discourse in this country:
Bahrain in transition, from blog to street
The large and rapidly diversifying Bahraini blogosphere is opening up fields of discussion and debate that could never have occurred in Bahrain’s traditional media. While traditional media in Bahrain are controlled through a royal monopoly, the now-registered blogs remain relatively free. As a consequence of the historic roots of Bahraini blogging, vociferous opinion journalism has developed, taking the lead in confronting issues critically in a way that the timid printed media cannot. Because of this, Internet users have access to a much greater diversity of issues than those who rely on traditional media.
You can read the full report here.
Thanks for the heads-up HT!
I’m glad to inform you that the libel case levied against me by the minister of agricultural affairs and municipalities Mansour bin Rajab has officially been dropped this morning and the judge has accepted our joint signed document.
As such, I have removed the gag!
I’ll blog more about the whole experience at a later date, maybe even write a book, goodness knows I have enough material to fill a few pages up!
Thanks once again to everyone for your invaluable support especially to Adel Marzooq and Fatima Al-Hawaj for their tremendous unselfish efforts exerted on my behalf.
The case is (almost) over.
Thanks to the sincere efforts of a lot of people in trying to get this case resolved amicably, principally by my lawyer Ms. Fatima Al-Hawaj who has been assigned to the case by the Bahrain Journalists Association, but various friends and colleagues and well wishers, the minister has agreed to drop the libel case against me.
I have met with the minister at his office this afternoon in the presence of Ms. Al-Hawaj, the ministry’s legal consultant and other officials at the ministry in which I have expressed my apology for hurting his feelings by using what could be interpreted as harsh words in my criticism in the original article. I have explained to the minister that those words were probably fueled by an over-reaction to the news report on my part and offered to change them to something more polite.
The minister’s lawyer should be present in court on the 8th and officially submit the reconciliation agreement and officially withdraw the case.
I wish to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who stood by me in this: The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the Bahrain Journalists Association, the Bahrain Journalists Union, the Bahrain Human Rights Society, the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, Reporters without Borders, Ahmed Al-Aradi and the many many friends who lent their unwavering support.
I would also like to especially thank Adel Marzooq, the vice president of the Bahrain Journalists Association for his support and council and of course to Ms. Fatima Al-Hawaj for all her efforts.
Thank you once again.
It’s that time of the month again!
Make a note of it and come and enjoy thrilling company in a friendly atmosphere on Thursday 3rd May at 7pm in Al-Bareh CafÃ© in Adliya.
90 minutes, lots of talk from opinionated people, and no conclusion. Does that sound like the Arab League or the UN or any other gathering fueled by world media…
What I liked about it is that no matter what these people do, and no matter how much they attack blogs and bloggers, they will come to the eventual realisation that blogging is here to stay. It has ceased to be a phenomenon a long time ago, but they are still holding on to that dream of the “big red switch”.
Well, let them dream, the Internet and the free and easy availability of blogging platforms has unleashed the Arab imagination and capability to criticise their governments and write about things they are passionate about.
I loved what the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs in the UAE, Dr. Anwar Gergash said in response to a question by the moderator which he laid out how blogs should be regarded as far as laws are concerned and that is the traditional press should use the strictest rules of journalistic ethics, a little bit more leeway should be given to TV and radio, while blogs should be the least controlled, and their owners most certainly should not be chased with libel lawsuits.
Why? He explained that theory specifically well which demonstrates his deep understanding of new media in general and his preparedness to accept criticism. He said that there should be a separation between news and opinions; news must be reported with full journalist ethics as the cascading effects of reporting incorrect news might have some adverse reactions; while in the case of opinions and comments, those should be regarded as the essence of freedom of expression and their instigators should be left alone. I suspect he also holds the opinion that if someone takes umbrage with those opinions, then they should be resolved by posting a response to that opinion or comment, or even creating a blog and posting their competing thoughts on that.
Dr. Gergash says that he follows blogs as he gets the raw information from them, rather than the editor doctored content from the traditional main stream media. He says that if there are 4 television stations in a country and maybe 30 newspapers, there are more than 500 blogs in that country possibly and if those 500 bloggers are talking about a unique particular subject then that has weight and indicates the unadulterated feeling on the street. Something that you cannot get from traditional media.
This is what I call a responsible way of thinking of things. Blogs are as varied as those people writing in them and it is impossible to hold them to a code of ethics should they choose to ignore that, and more importantly, as most blogs are opinions of individuals they should be respected as such and left alone.
Lawrence Pintak (director, Adham Centre for Television Journalism, American University of Cairo) goes a bit further; he asserts that in the US specifically if a person chooses to be in a public persona, be that an entertainer or the president of the United States, the ability of the people to criticise them – in person and/or the position they hold – becomes a free for all, in law! The burden of proof then shift to that public persona to prove malicious intent on the part of the critic rather than the other way around. The situation changes completely when one unfairly libels his neighbour for instance, then that neighbour could take his critic to court and thence to the cleaners.
Obviously what we have in our little world is the complete opposite; once a person gains the status of public persona, a further status of inviolate demigod is also bestowed upon him or her. In fact, if a person holds any position in government, be that a janitor or a clerk, one – taking the Penal Code and the Press and Publications Law of 2002 into consideration – one should be very careful and research that person’s familial and tribal affiliation before daring to criticise! Even if that person can claim that he played marbles with the son of the 2nd cousin of the divorced wife of the middle manager whose father once helped change the punctured tyre of a dead minister’s blind uncle – once removed – is a dangerous enterprise and would ensure that the law when applied to you will be double as that would be through the “extraneous circumstances”!
Another person who not only demonstrated that he and his organisation understood the emerging power of bloggers, but also is actively trying to harness that power is Major Gen. William Caldwell, (Spokesperson, Multinational Force in Iraq) who says that a year ago they have one person following blogs, 6 months ago they had 4 (if I remember correctly) and now not only do they have people following what is written in blogs, but they have weekly conference calls with bloggers in order to apprise them of operations and field information of the front! Smart, very smart. I hope that others in our area will emulate this pattern.
The whole session took a life of its own with blogs and blogging ethics taking centre stage. Which I personally think is unfortunate as the published topic of the session I think is much more important and should be investigated more fully without this distraction of non-bloggers issuing fatwas on the dos and don’ts of blogging.
I was particularly dismayed by how Abdellatif Al-Menawy, (head of news, ERTU) has hijacked the session, doing an Ameen Omar on us. The guy was talking like a machine-gun going at the highest setting not even stopping for breath once in a while defending the great Egyptian government and condoning the authorities reaction to “wayward” bloggers. He suggested that there never was any harassment of women in the streets of Cairo and it was a bloggers’ conspiracy which exploded the issue needlessly! He waxed lyrical on how great the system was and bloggers should be (and I paraphrase) hung, or at least have their opinions disregarded and never used as sources.
He was seconded by a blond Egyptian bimbo in the audience who went a few steps more in categorising bloggers basically as vermin (my feeling, not her words.)
I personally don’t know why I was included in this panel. I was the only blogger in there (as far as I can tell) who was not asked about what I think blogging is and who the typical bloggers are, but was set there – I think – to be lynched as the “irresponsible blogger” who published an unsubstantiated deposit slip, forgetting that I took pains to indicate that I wanted it authenticated and I took it upon myself to investigated by calling the receiving bank and then publishing the findings and offering and apology. And of course forgetting that that particular slip was heavily distributed through chain-mails.
No matter, at least it brings these issues to the fore, and I am thrilled to hear government decision makers like Dr. Gergash and Major Gen. Caldwell now “clicking on”, so there is hope that other high-ranking officials in this region’s governments would do so too.
As you can tell, the session could have been managed a bit better, though Husam did try and I empathise with him, but people were just wanting to hear themselves talk and argue; it is their moment of being in a historic multicast and didn’t want to give that chance up.
Conclusions? None really, the basic discussion of The Battle for Democracy in the Arab World should have been the central theme and although it was touched upon, it most certainly was not the main theme of the session. My suggestion for future sessions is to have less people on the panel, be more methodical in asking questions and directing and redirecting errant observations back to the central theme.
Still, I enjoyed the experience tremendously. This is a first for me and I look forward to doing more, it’s a lot of fun!
Now I’ll go have another coffee and wait for the delayed Gulf Air flight to take me back home. Thank goodness that tomorrow is yet another holiday in Bahrain, I can sleep in a bit!
The small adenium (desert rose) flowered, and I am really happy with it. It took this plant a year to get itself together, but what a fantastic show it is now.
This photograph is my present to all of you guys who made Mahmood’s Den the place it is now. I wish you all a very happy and fulfilling life, and thank you all once again my friends for enriching my life by knowing you.
Happy 4th birthday Mahmood’s Den!
update 1: If you want to dig deeper and follow the progress and evolution of Mahmood’s Den, you might want to have a look at the Wayback Machine, the first it records my site is in September 2001 which shows the entries going back to 4 July 2001!
Like everyone else I think, I didn’t have my own domain when I first started. I had a site on Geocities I think, and called the site then “Kick the Dog”! You can see that I resurrected that name briefly in 2002 but reverted back to Mahmood’s Den soon thereafter.
The old-timers will remember the time even before 2001, 1986 to be exact! That’s when I ran a BBS called “Stray Cats BBS” and it was one of the first in the area, but that’s a whole different story!
Happy birthday again.
update 2: oh man, the vault opens! I looked around the internet for mentions of my old BBS and this is what I have found so far: