Tag Archives freedoms

M.Report S01E11 – Hayfa Wahbi, despondency and its cure!

This is yesterday’s episode, sorry, had meetings outside and didn’t get back to the office to collect the laptop before going home. So I did this on Arif’s digital snapper, and the quality ain’t bad. I might actually go and buy a similar little shooter to shoot the M.Reports through. Let me know which you prefer.

Two things; apart from scratching my nose while talking, which is a habit that has been brought to my attention – thanks my friend! – I also seem to use a lot of “apart from that” too! I’m exposing all of my bad habits to you and hope for forgiveness, ’cause I ain’t gonna change!

Hayfa Wahbi takes on the Bahraini parliamentToday (yesterday) I talk about the pending visit of Hayfa Wahbi who stirred most of our parliamentary members to erectly stand and vigorously complain about her pending visit to these isles of golden smiles and want her banned. Just like they did a few years ago with the delectable Nancy Ajram, this time they are unanimous in their condemnation of the harlot (their words) visiting to corrupt our youth.

I say just give the buggers a box of tissues each and squat them in front of a giant screen showing the gyrating artiste go through her moves. In all probability they will be busy with themselves and leave us alone to choose – for ourselves – what we do and don’t want to do, see and hear.

For those others who actually enjoy live music and dance and want to simply while away the evening with their friends and loved ones, have fun at the concert which I hope that the government for once, just once, will throw the religious zealotry of its parliamentarians to the wind and give the people something to be happy about.

I was feeling quite despondent in this episode, I get that way sometimes, but I tell you what, I actually found the perfect cure which is guaranteed to lift you out of that mood should you experience it. All you have to do is…. watch the episode!

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Delivered a lecture at Princeton University

At Princeton University
lecture at Princeton University

findingourvoice-thumb.jpgAt the invitation of Daoud Kuttab, the visiting Ferris Professor of “New Media and the Arab World” at Princeton University, I gave a lecture to his students this morning about the Middle East Human Rights and Freedom of Expression situations from a blogger’s and political activist’s perspective. This is essentially the same presentation I did at RAND last week, but obviously to a different audience.

The talk was well received and generated many insightful questions by the students.

I’ve uploaded a zipped copy of my presentation (pdf 17MB), click the thumbnail to download it.

We’re having a fantastic time here – very busy actually, but very much worth it. We’re enjoying New York tremendously. I’ve been uploading some pictures on the Flickr album whenever I got a chance, I’ll hopefully upload many more once we get back home.

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“The Protection of Traditional Values”

I cringe whenever I hear or read those words. Why? Because they are always used as a pretext to restrict an intrinsic freedom or used as a justification for trouncing all over a basic human right.

It is as if “Traditions” are sacrosanct, enshrined and set in gold. They – we are led to believe – are the very essence of perfection.

This is not so of course, just like any other society on Earth, we do have traditions which are shameful, ones that we should diligently work at eradicating. But if we are faced with this oft-used mantra of “protection of our traditional values”, we might as well forget about the rest of the world and be content in our own little cocoon. Our isolation, in this case, is completely voluntary and well deserved.

We all know of course that protection of traditions or values are farthest from their minds. What they want to protect Рnot to put too fine a point on it Рare their well exposed derri̬res!

Witness the latest “protection” visited upon us by the two old stalwarts of human rights and personal freedoms and democracy: Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They have successfully towed 21 other countries – this valuable rock amongst them – to put their thumb-prints on a document restricting broadcasting – sorry, sorry, it’s not restriction, but really at attempt at

organization and putting rules and restrictions to increase the investment opportunities in these channels and ascending by the presented informational message.

Ah yes, of course. The minister of disinformation of Egypt continues:

Al-Fiqi said that there is a state of randomization in the satellite channels which don’t differentiate from the random housing in some countries. The examples of such randomization are many, such as transforming the channel possession without rules and its deviation from the registered form, besides the programs of jugglery and nakedness and so on.

Other than suddenly and categorically understanding what actually ails our own beloved BNA, I have no idea what they guy is going on about. Click the link and have some comic relief, maybe you’ll make head or tails of that erudite piece of journalism. Oh, and his wit and effervescent personality, of course.

The document being non-binding is moot of cousre. Yet, only Lebanon specifically opposed it, while Qatar is “studying” it. The others, well, they follow the piper.

Remembering all of these organisational efforts which we have signed into, you can imagine the tears of mirth pouring down my face while reading Al-Waqt this morning. You see, our illustrious Shura Council are discussing legislation for the establishment of private radio and television stations! [translate]

Now, with “organising” measures which

allows authorities to withdraw permits from satellite channels deemed to have offended Arab leaders or national or religious symbols.

Who in their right mind is going to establish anything in these countries, let alone enter into the highly unpredictable and treacherous world of visual and aural media?

Ah well, let me just be on record in thanking Ebrahim Bashmi & Co. in the Shura Council on their valiant efforts over the last 6 years in trying to codify modern and fair press and media laws which will elevate and protect the basic and most important human right, the freedom of expression, and humbly tell them to not bother. The high blood pressure they and other honest persons endure, is really just not worth it. Leave it to the Internet to give them real heart-burn!

What they want; really, is nothing more than the traditional noddy dog backed by the various excellent musical themes of Monty Python on their screens.

Let them have it, and a wise company would take its money elsewhere.

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Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan arrested

Saudi blogger Fouad Al-FarhanFouad Al-Farhan is one of a very few Saudi bloggers who chooses to blog under their own name, publishes his picture and challenges the establishment with utter bravery has been arrested in Saudi.

This is not Fouad’s first altercation with the authorities there. His blog has been banned in Saudi in February 2007. He resumed writing in July 2007 against almost continuous harassment. It was reported that he has been led from his office in Jeddah without any reason given.

If the reason for his arrest is due to his writing, then this is obviously a gross violation of an individual’s basic human right to freedom of expression. I call on the Saudi authorities to respect their role in the world and immediately release Fouad Al-Farhan and call on them to guarantee his safety throughout his detention.

Hang in there Fouad, you have a lot of friends with you. I applaud your determination to speak your mind for the better of our community.

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Emirates retools press law

Good news this morning from a southerly direction that we hope that our newly appointed minister of Information as well as our parliamentarians will immediately emulate:

UAE rules journalists not to be jailed over work

9 hours ago

DUBAI (AFP) — The prime minister of the United Arab Emirates decreed on Tuesday that journalists should not be jailed over their work, two days after two were jailed for libel, the state WAM news agency reported.

Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum “has issued instructions … not to imprison journalists for reasons related to their work,” said the head of the National Media Council, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

Sheikh Mohammad stated that “other measures can be taken to penalise a journalist who has committed a particular violation,” added Sheikh Abdullah, who is also foreign minister.

Abdullah said the prime minister also called for speeding up the enactment of a new press law in line with amendments introduced by the National Media Council.

The amendments drop imprisonment as a penalty for press offences.

Sheikh Mohammad is also ruler of the booming emirate of Dubai, a member of the UAE that hosts scores of regional and international news organisations operating out of Internet and media free zones.

His move came two days after two Dubai-based journalists — an Indian and an Egyptian working for the English-language daily Khaleej Times — were sentenced to two months for libel, according to local press reports.

They have since been released on bail and are appealing.

Two UAE nationals were also recently sentenced to jail for defamation on an Internet site in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, another UAE member, and are appealing the rulings. The website has been closed.

Abdullah Omran, lawyer of one of the two, hailed Sheikh Mohammad’s decision and said he hoped it would apply to Internet sites.

“We welcome this positive move, which proves that our wise leadership is responsive to the aspirations of its people. We hope it will extend to electronic sites, and that violators will be penalised by measures other than imprisonment since they are electronic journalists,” Omran told AFP.

Omran is the lawyer for Mohammad Rashed al-Shehhi, owner of the website who has been jailed for a total of 17 months in two defamation cases involving local officials.

Fellow Emirati Khaled al-Asli was sentenced earlier in September to five months in jail on charges of writing an article on the site that slandered a local official.

Asli, who has denied writing the article posted under a pen name, has been released on bail while Shehhi is behind bars.
AFP/Yahoo

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Extradited cleric takes editor to court for defamation

You probably remember Mr. Wagdy Ghoneim, the guy that was thrown out of the States and is now still waiting for being blessed with a Bahraini passport (shock horror!) even though his immensely popular religious show on our Bahrain TV canned; hence, the country no longer requires his services, but he’s not only still around, he has taken Isa Al-Shaiji, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ayam newspaper and the head of the Bahrain Journalists Association to court for defamation!

Needless to say, Wagdy doesn’t have a leg to stand on, but is probably looking for another financial compensation package to help defray the high costs of living in this overly generous country.

We’re all with you Isa and are sure that you will win, even though you are dragged once again in front of the Public Prosecutor for just expressing an opinion, treated like a common criminal just for your and your paper’s word. But persevere my friend, it’s all for a good cause.

As to Wagdy, I think he should take the opportunity given by the Ministry of Labour and apply for free plane tickets back to wherever he came from before the illegal migrant amnesty period ends.

And that, my friends, would be good riddance and none too soon!

Update 29 Aug, ’07: BJA Press Release after the break (in Arabic)

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It’s the UAE’s turn to imprisson online publishers

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Here we go again:

UAE online forum administrator sentenced to prison
Earlier this month, on August 8th, Mohamed Rashed al-Shohhi, an online forum administrator in the Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah (UAE) has been sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of nearly US$ 13,600 (Dh50,000) for content deemed defamatory published by anonymous on the popular forum board he moderated majan.net (suspended).

It has also been reported that the department of e-government services managed to access the forum’s control panel looking for registrants email addresses. And it seems that this has led to the arrest, on August 19th, of a forum registrant, Khaled El Asli.
GlobalVoices Advocacy

Why is this, I hear you ask?

الدكتور هاشم الرفاعي مدير عام دائرة الهيئة الالكترونية في رأس الخيمة أكد ان المنتدى الالكتروني أغلق درءاً للمفاسد حيث كان يطرح بعض القضايا التي تمس الخصوصية والتدخل في الحياة الشخصية ناهيك عن السب والتشهير.

وأضاف الدكتور الهاشمي ان التقنية تحتاج إلى تنظيم والحرية تحتاج إلى توجيه، موضحا ان الجانب السيئ للجوانب التقنية يكمن في عدم تحفظها، وإدراكها للجانب الاجتماعي المدني وما يمكن ان يترتب عليه مضيفا ان إغلاق المنتدى جاء بسبب الحوادث الكثيرة التي اشتكت ضده مؤكدا ان العقاب يردع كل المسؤولين عن المنتديات الالكترونية ليتجنبوا تلك الطرق في طرح المواضيع مشددا على أن الفرد إذا أراد إيصال آرائه فيمكنه ذلك بطرق رسمية أخرى متاحة ككتابة رسالة أو إرسال فاكس أو عن طريق قنوات البث المباشر مؤكدا أن المسؤولين يتقبلون تلك الطرق ويولونها الأهمية.
الخليج – Google translation of full article

What is essentially happening is that an anonymous commenter entered a perceivably defamatory comment and the forum moderator got it instead. Making true the local adage that if you can’t handle the donkey, break the cart! Or in Dr. Hashim Al-Rifa’i’s words – who heads the eGovernment Department in Ras Al-Khaima, a small and almost forgotten emirate in the UAE – if you have a complaint, you had better write a letter or send a fax! I wonder what his “eGovernment” initiative is like, it must be better than the telex technology, don’t you think.

He must also fully believes in the Big Red Switch which he and his government must have been ecstatic at activating against this new fangled thing called the Internet.

The situation in the whole Middle East is quite tenuous now and publishing anything on the internet is getting quite scary.

Well needless to say that I support Mohamed Rashed al-Shohhi’s right to freedom of speech and that he should not to be held responsible for comments entered in his electronic publication; therefore, ask for his release and exonoration from those ridiculous charges he has been imprisoned under.

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Defamation case thrown out by High Court

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The High Court dismissed a defamation case brought by the president of the Arabian Gulf University Dr Rafia Ghubash against journalist Hisham Al-Zayani.

I wish to offer my congratulations to Mr. Al-Zayani for winning the case, even though the decision has taken over 2 years to be determined. This rare victory for the written word should be guardedly welcomed as the current Press and Publications Law still allows for the imprisonment of journalists and it is high time that it is changed.

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It’s over

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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.

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