Good morning my friends…
It’s nice a sunny and cool day in Bahrain, slightly humid, but promises to get hotter as the day goes by, especially as far as personal freedoms and freedoms of expression are concerned.
I have received the following page from a friend, and as you can see, it is another order by the Ministry of Information to block some more sites; the common denominator it seems is that they mention the dreaded Bandargate scandal in one way or another after Oct 5th, 2006 when the gag order was issued. The ministry also claims that some of the sites blocked contain libelous material which they cannot condone, and in the interest of protecting citizens, they have taken it upon themselves to take appropriate action – in this case, blocking access to these sites from within Bahrain.
The worrying thing in there is that there is another thread of commonality in most of them: 5 our of 8 are Shi’i sites. One is an international Human Rights site, 2 are based out of Bahrain while the real humdinger is the order to block the only active liberal society (Wa’ad) which is contesting the forthcoming elections on too!
You can draw your own conclusions from my observations.
Much more importantly, it behooves all of us now to raise the bar against such intolerance which is permeating the Ministry of Information’s halls of power. They might be just an executive branch who are charged with implementing the law, but I think they have taken it upon themselves to go way beyond their mandate in being an dependent “Yes Sir” organisation with a few individuals who have taken it upon themselves to do nothing but scour the net for what they perceive to be offending material, and then make recommendations to the Minister to action a blocking order.
This situation denotes a variety of ills which must be corrected:
- The Ministry’s powers must be curtailed and such actions as blocking any source of information should be given, and with stringent provisos, to the judicial authorities exclusively.
- The Ministry’s role, if there is to be one in any case, should be limited to recommending closure of offending sites to the judicial powers which must be presented complete and with unambiguous documentary evidence to support their closure request.
- Before such recourse to the judiciary, the Ministry should exhaust all possible means to amicably resolve any situation with the website owners, possibly by face to face information meetings and/or sending them an initial warning email specifying what they find objectionable in the site, preferably with a link to assist the website manger in reviewing the offending material.
- The Ministry should adopt better, more friendly ways in communicating with website owners and moderators and work at maintaining a partnership relationship between them.
- The Ministry of Information should immediately establish an excellent website through which information would be easily accessible.
- To be part of the electronic publishing culture, the Minister himself should be encouraged to start his own blog, as well as all the top managers within the Ministry to better communicate with the public and to actually show them the value of having such a ministry in the first place.
- Restating the role of the Ministry of Information and moving it away from being the “information police” to that of the “information facilitator” and exert all efforts at increasing intellectual pursuits and dialogue, thus assisting the country in going forth into the knowledge age, rather than act as a seemingly continuous hindrance.
I hope that these points will be taken seriously into consideration, rather than resort to secretive machinations or resorting continuously to threats and the law to force compliance with what the Ministry deems appropriate or correct.
The sites given in this list have not been blocked yet. Although the order is issued on the 30th of last month,
all of them are still available*. I strongly urge the minister to reconsider this policy and adopt and adapt some of the recommendations given above.
The new list includes:
- http://www.shahrakkan.org [*blocked!]
- http://www.hrinfo.net [*blocked!]
- http://www.bintjbeil.org [*blocked!]
- http://www.althaqlain.com [*blocked!]
- http://www.aldemokrati.org [*blocked!]
The list of sites still blocked in Bahrain (please let me know should you come across more, or indeed if the situation of any of the sites listed below changes) are:
- National Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture – http://www.shaheedbh.com
- Bahrain forums – http://www.montadayat.org
- Wattani (the National ) Forums – http://www.wattani.net
- Tubli village forum – http://www.tubli.net
- Alsaheefa (the Journal) – http://www.alsaheefa.net
- Electronic Journal (Civilized Dialogue) – http://www.rezgar.com
- Ahrar Al-Bahrain – http://www.ahraralbahrain.com
- Bahrain times – http://www.bahraintimes.org
- Bahrain Center for Human Rights – http://www.bahrainrights.org
- Middle East news portal – http://www.Albawaba.com
Mahmood’s Den – http://mahmood.tv**
* – updated 1225 on 2 Nov, ’06
** – updated 1530 on 2 Nov, ’06