Tag Archives freedoms

Countdown started

countdown to the next elections

We deserve the parliament we vote for. Here’s to hoping, against all odds, that the people who voted for these dark-ages jokers would learn from their lesson and don’t assume – for a third time – that religiosity = political ability or wisdom for that matter, as this parliament has amply proven.

Welcome to the age of Bahraini Inquisition. Have the cinder ready, and build gallows in sufficient numbers for the exclusive use of the parliamentary inquisitors, the protectors of our faith, the defenders of our morals, the lovers of culture and the appreciators of the arts.

What did you actually expect? That this parliament would diligently work to increase freedoms of speech and expression? That they will open investigations in dire issues they have conveniently forgotten like Bandargate, the housing shortage, the dearth of land, the increasing poverty, retooling education and fixing the constitution?

Fat chance!

We can’t blame the government for this one. We can only blaming ourselves for voting for these morons. Well done. I hope whoever voted for them is happy with their choice now, go on, pat yourself on the back.

Assuming the next elections would happen on 15 Oct, 2010, there are 1,303 days left. Assuming we actually want to wait that long.

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King’s Freedom of Expression Vow Ignored

Journalist Ja’afar Al-Jamri of Al-Wasat being sued for libel

No sooner than our king vowing to protect the freedoms of expression in Bahrain, than we get yet another journalist dragged in for questioning by the public prosecutor!

The honour this time goes to Ja’afer Al-Jamri of Al-Wasat with a complaint brought against him by a government ex-employee for libel even though it has been proven that the complainant was in the wrong! This of course gives rise to various questions, chief amongst them is why does the public prosecution bother with these cases? Wouldn’t it have been better for them to throw the complaint out and save themselves some time?

Not so, it seems, and I agree with Radhi Al-Mousawi’s conclusions in this regard: this continuous hauling of opinion writers and journalists to the public prosecutor is the first line of “warning” these people to toe the line, especially when it is tied with criticism against the government, one of its employees or any other person society deems as “influential”.

This method is quite effective actually and I can tell you this from first hand experience. Not that I have stopped criticising (constructively still, mind you) but this method has been successful in varying degrees in silencing opinion writers who do not wish to spend some time being questioned, nor have their jobs and livelihood put in jeopardy. I have absolutely no problem with those who chose to take heed of these warnings and I completely understand why they did so. What I do have a problem with is that it looks like the government still regards criticism as “disrespect” – probably in a tribal mentality – rather than a freely provided consultancy to better its ways!

His majesty understands this point fully, I feel, which is exactly why he made his vow only a couple of days ago that he fully supports the God-given freedom of expression. So it just remains now to translate his vision and inculcate it fully in written laws which should be coded in a way to protect those freedoms as his majesty understands and wishes.

One thing that would speed that process up is to instruct parliament to finish discussing Law 47/2002’s Press & Publications Law amendments – which magically supplanted Ebrahim Bashmi’s much better proposal – the parliament started discussing in its last term and has not touched in the almost inaugural 100 days of its convening.

Ja’afar, my friend, I am with you all the way. I do not see how you committed a wrong. On the contrary, all you’ve done is provide free consultancy for which you should have been thanked!

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King vows to promote freedom of expression

In an audience today, the king met with the members of the Bahrain Journalist Association and:

UNDERLINED HIS CONTINUOUS KEENNESS TO PROMOTE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION WHICH IS THE MOST EMINENT CONTRIBUTOR TO PRESS DEVELOPMENT URGING EVERY BODY TO STICK TO OBJECTIVITY AND HONESTY AND CHAMPION THE NATIONAL INTEREST.

King meeting journalists

and just to be sure that the translation is actually correct, courtesy of the BNA:

و اكد جلالته حرصه الدائم على كفالة حرية الرأى والتعبير التى هى العامل الابرز فى ازدهار الصحافة داعيا الى ان يتحلى الجميع بالموضوعية والنزاهة وان يضعوا مصلحة الوطن العليا فوق كل اعتبار.

Thank you your majesty, this is much appreciated by every opinion writer in the island, I am sure. And as your majestic words are law, I can now assume that Law 47 of 2002 which imprisons these very writers for exercising your vision as expressed above is now withdrawn and that people can write and speak their minds for the betterment of your kingdom without fear of this particular persecution and imprisonment?

I sure hope so and shall take your words at face value. I will also hope that our illustrious parliamentarians shall immediately work to rescind that law and replace it with another which will allow people to speak their minds without having that sword of incarceration hanging over their heads.

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Al-Sahlawi & Al-Habshi are OUT!

Thanks to the big campaign and continuous pressure applied by society, Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi and Hussain Al-Habshi have been released from prison at around 11am this morning. I have also confirmed this fact independently.

I wish to officially congratulate them for their stance and sacrifice, and hope that with this, the Bahraini government too have re-evaluated its own stance regarding freedoms of expressions. I would also like to thank everyone who maintained the political pressure to secure their release.

Congratulations Mohammed and Hussain and it’s good to have you back!

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‘Press Freedom and the role of blogs in supporting Human Rights’ Workshop

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights will be conducting a training workshop about Press Freedoms, the law and how it views freedoms of expression, practical demonstrations and tutorials on blogging and how to circumvent blocks to reach the content you require.

This workshop will take place between 1-5 March, 2007 in the Bahrain Human Rights Society’s premises for the first two days (1 and 3) the latter days will be conducted at Wa’ad’s.

Both Mohammed Al-Maskati (not to be confused with the other Mohammed Maskati who heads the BYSHR!) and myself will be presenting on the first day (1st March) from 6:20PM through to 8:30PM and our topics will be “Bahraini Blogs, between freedom and internet blocks”.

The whole workshop is very well worth the attendance. Please call the BYSHR for more information.

Download the program (arabic) in pdf format.

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Sad day for freedom of expression

This is a very sad day for the freedom of expression in the Middle East:

Egyptian Blogger Sentenced to Prison

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — An Egyptian blogger was convicted of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak and sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday in Egypt’s first prosecution of a blogger.

Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, had pleaded innocent to all charges, and human rights groups had called for his release.

The judge issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and inciting sedition and another year for insulting Mubarak. Nabil had faced a possible maximum sentence of up to nine years in prison.
Washingtom Post :: 22 Feb, ’07

And if Egypt leads, the Arab world are supposed to follow, right? So the arrest, detention and jailing of people for simply writing their thoughts is forging ahead unchecked in the Middle East… and there doesn’t seem to be any will whatsoever for anyone to stop it, even for a moment, to think of what that is going to do for this and future generations.

Yet another reason for one to maintain their anonymity at all times.

Big brother is not just watching, but is waiting to pounce at the slightest chance to silence critics in the full sight of the world and even they are not interested in doing anything about the situation.

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Bahraini court imprisons journalist for libel case

It is with utter sadness that I learnt that journalist Mr. Saleh Al-Amm was handed a 3 month prison sentence or payment of a fine as the court found him guilty of libel in a case brought against him by Ms. Fatima Buali, the ex-manageress of the Almanar Home for the Elderly.

This prison sentence is rather ominous, and will further stifle the already fragile freedom of expression in Bahrain and will push its press freedom index further down the list. This will ultimately affect the country’s reputation in international circles and might very well affect the level of trust internationals will have for doing business in Bahrain.

What the courts and the government should realise is that a free press is a major component of a modern society. With freedom of speech and expression societies can elevate themselves as it aids in the country’s and society’s development and transparency. A free press is not an enemy of the state, but quite the contrary, it is a full partner that contributes to the stability of the country.

Mr. Al-Amm is not the only one who was presented to the judicial authorities due to his exercising of his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression, another journalist, Mr. Mu’ath Al-Mishari was also presented to court on another libel case.

I extend my full support to these gentlemen and shall stand with them against this unfair law and call, once again, for it to be retooled to fully reflect His Majesty’s vision of reforms for the Kingdom.

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BJA condemns minister’s reneging on an agreement to drop case against blogger

Post updated at 21:25 on 13 Feb, ’07 with English translation by me of the Bahrain Journalists Association’s press release.

The Bahrain Journalists Association has just released a strongly worded press release in which it condemned the minister of municipalities and agriculture’s reneging on an agreement in which I have fully fulfilled.

My thanks go to Adel Marzooq who has been a pillar of support and mediation. I wish to thank him publicly for all of his efforts.

نستنكر إخلال وزير شئون البلديات بإتفاقية سحب الإدعاء ضد البلوغر محمود اليوسف

عادل مرزوق : نتضامن مع اليوسف وسندعو الصحافيين للإحتشاد في يوم المحاكمة

الجفير – جمعية الصحافيين البحرينية

صرح نائب رئيس جمعية الصحافيين البحرينية عادل مرزوق أنه قام بوساطة غير رسمية – وبموافقة من مجلس إدارة جمعية الصحافيين البحرينية – بين وزير شئون البلديات والزراعة منصور بن رجب والبلوغر محمود اليوسف فيما يتعلق بالدعوى التي قدمها الوزير للنيابة العامة ضد اليوسف.

وأكد مرزوق أن إتفاق المصالحة الذي توسطت فيه الجمعية كان يقتضي أن يقوم الأخير بحذف بعض الكلمات من التقرير الذي نشره في مدونته باللغة الإنجليزية على أن يقوم الوزير بسحب الدعوى من النيابة العامة بعد ذلك.

وأكد مرزوق أنه أجرى بعض الاتصالات التي أجراها مع الوزير والبلوغر محمود اليوسف ووسيط آخر من طرف الوزير. وأكد ان اليوسف إلتزم ببنود المصالحة وقام فعلاً بحذف الكلمات مثار “الجدل” إلا أن الوزير رفض – بحسب الوسيط – التنازل متذرعاً بضرورة بضرورة حذف التعليقات على الموضوع. وهو ما أعتبره مرزوق “تصرفاً غريباً” من جانب الوزير ووسيطه، وأنها شروط لم تكن مدرجة ضمن الإتفاق الأولي.

هذا وأعلن مرزوق أنه يجري الآن بعض الاتصالات مع باقي مجلس إدارة جمعية الصحافيين من أجل توجيه دعوة رسمية لجميع الصحافيين المنتمين للجمعية للتضامن مع البلوغر محمود اليوسف في أولى جلسات المحاكمة في حال قامت النيابة العامة بتحويل القضية للقضاء معتبراً الدفاع عن اليوسف دعماً لحرية التعبير ووقوفاً في صف حرية الكلمة وضرورة التخفيف من حدية التحسس في نقد الشخصيات العامة.

وأشار نائب رئيس جمعية الصحافيين إلى أن الجمعية ستدرس الصفة القانونية في تبنيها الدفاع عن اليوسف في ضوء أنه ليس عضواً فيها، وأنه في حال موافقة مجلس الإدارة على ذلك فإنها – الجمعية – ستخاطب رسمياً شتى المنظمات الدولية والحقوقية المختصة لحثها على دعم اليوسف بشتى الطرق الممكنة.

We register our dismay due to the Minister of Municipal Affairs reneging on the agreement to withdraw the case against blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif

Adel Marzooq: We declare our solidarity with Al-Yousif and will call on all journalists to demonstrate [at the court house] when the court convenes to consider the case

Juffair – Bahrain Journalist Association

The vice president of the Bahrain Journalist Association Mr. Adel Marzooq issued a statement declaring that he acted as an unofficial mediator – with the full agreement of the Association’s board – between the Minister of Municipal and Agricultural Affairs Mansour bin Rajab and the blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif in the case lodged with the public prosecutor by the minister against Al-Yousif.

Marzooq affirmed that he did communicate with the minister, the blogger and another intermediary on the minister’s behalf. He confirmed that Al-Yousif did abide by the terms of the agreement fully and has indeed removed the “contentious” words, but the minister refused – according to the 2nd intermediary – to withdraw the case making further demands to remove the comments on the published article as well, which Marzooq considered as an “unwarranted behavior” by the minister and his mediator, and that these conditions were never part of the original agreement.

Marzooq further declared that he communicated with members of the Association’s board to officially request all affiliated journalists to offer their solidarity with Al-Yousif when the court convenes to consider this case in support of the freedom of expression and resolutely stand with the freedom of speech and urge public figures to reduce their sensitivity to criticism.

The vice president of the Bahrain Journalists Association said that the Association will study the legality of adopting the defence of Al-Yousif in light of his not being a member of the Association. In the event of the board’s agreement, the Association will communicate with a multitude of concerned international and legal bodies and ask them to offer their support to Al-Yousif in any way they can.

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Libel case going ahead

Unfortunately the mediation between the minister of municipalities and agriculture and myself to resolve the dispute and perceived libel has not been successful. I have demonstrated my good will over the last few days by amending the original article, but that it seems is not enough for the right honourable gentleman.

The minister wants to pursue his legal right and extract his pound of flesh.

I re-iterate that I do not believe what I published was libelous in any way. The intention was never to besmirch his person, but rather I was criticising his ministry, an executive body which not only should accept criticism, but also welcome and encourage it with open arms.

He now wants to take me to court. So be it.

I enjoy the support of a large body of people and also have a lot of human rights and freedom of expression lawyers and advocates standing by me to offer real and direct support in defending this case.

I didn’t want this as I still feel that it is a frivolous case at best, which now will probably turn into a benchmark that will further sully Bahrain’s reputation internationally. You can be sure that this case will now be included in all the press indicies for 2007 as a black spot against this country, thanks to a minister who cannot take criticism.

A press release from the Bahrain Journalists Association will follow shortly. Again, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who stood and will continue to stand by me at this time.

I have restored the article to its former and original glory.

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BCHR first to declare support in libel case

I am indebted to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights for being the very first organisation to offer me their unstinting support in the libel case brought against me by the minister of municipalities and agriculture and releasing a statement to that effect.

My neglect to mention this fact is my personal stinking brain-fart so please excuse me for not mentioning this specifically.

The BCHR of course are no stranger to being castigated and singled out for this iniquitous treatment of course; they already have their website blocked by the authorities here, and their whole society disbanded by judicial order; however, they continue to not only operate in spite of this, but their international presence is much enhanced, ironically, not only because of these machinations, but because they do do very good work in taking up a broad spectrum human rights cases from the prisoners of Guantanamo through to poverty cases in Bahrain and everything in between.

I did of course publish their statement immediately on its release in the “pages” section which might be hidden to cursory examination. This brings me conveniently to the point where I can mention that I have gathered the articles published so far (that I know of) in the main stream media under one page for ease of navigation. You can also display all articles as well as pages published by utilising the “libel” or “bin-rajab” tags.

My thanks and gratitude to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights for their solidarity with me at this time, and much more importantly for their continued work in the human rights field in Bahrain.

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