Tag Archives freedoms

The view from Bahrain

Mahmood's Den blocked by Bahraini authorities

Democracy?

Human rights?

Freedom of Expression?

President of the UN?

XIX

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Bahraini Government is a signatory of states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The Bahraini Constitution’s Guarantees of Freedom of Speech

Article 23 of the Bahrain Constitution: Freedom of opinion and scientific research is guaranteed. Everyone has the right to express his opinion and publish it by word of mouth, in writing or otherwise under the rules and conditions laid down by law, provided that the fundamental beliefs of Islamic doctrine are not infringed, the unity of the people is not prejudiced, and discord or sectarianism is not aroused.

Article 24 of the Bahrain Constitution: With due regard for the provisions of the preceding Article, the freedom of the press, printing and publishing is guaranteed under the rules and conditions laid down by law.

Article 26 of the Bahrain Constitution: The freedom of postal, telegraphic and electronic communication is safeguarded and its confidentiality is guaranteed. Communications shall not be censored or their confidentiality breached except in exigencies specified by law and in accordance with procedures and under guarantees prescribed by law.

new slogan for the Ministry of disInformation launched:

لا شيعي… لا سني… لا محمود!
no shi’i… no sunni… NO MAHMOOD!

ُthanks for coining this mate! 😉

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One more site blocked in Bahrain

It used to be just 9 that were blocked:

and now, it appears that someone who is really shaking in his boots and deems it very necessary to protect us from ourselves and protect the country from those nefarious people hell bent on toppling the government has done the right thing™ and blocked…

Well done! I am sure the blocking of these sites will contribute greatly to the country’s standing in the Freedom of the Press index, the Human Rights index (which Bahrain actually is on that council in the UN!!) and will also assist Shaikha Haya bint Rashed Al-Khalifa in her role as the PRESIDENT of the United Nations and gain her and Bahrain even more respect and credibility to continue to be in that role.

Of course, that brainfartist probably doesn’t know that it is becoming easier every day to unblock sites, no matter what their contents are.

Welllll done!

But then one must ask the question… who’s next?

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MoI threatens websites.. again.

They’re using that old “protecting Islam” chestnut again, here’s the copy:

أغلقت موقعي «صوت الحق» و«إسلاميات»
«الإعلام» ترصد المواقع الإلكترونية المسيئة للإسلام

صرح القائم بأعمال مدير إدارة المطبوعات والنشر في وزارة الإعلام حسن عون بان الوزارة تحرص على رصد المواقع التي تسيء الى الإسلام والى شخص الرسول الكريم، خصوصا بعد الموجة التي تفشت في معظم دول العالم المعادية للإسلام، ونتيجة لذلك تم حصر اكثر من موقع الكتروني وقد تم إغلاق بعضها في الآونة الأخيرة. وأضاف بان وزير الإعلام ووزير الدولة للشؤون الخارجية قد اصدر مؤخرا قرارا بإغلاق موقعي ‘’صوت الحق’’ و’’إسلاميات’’ حيث انهما من المواقع التي تسيء الى شخص الرسول (صلى الله عليه وسلم) وللدين الإسلامي. وأوضح أن وزارة الاعلام تؤكد في هذا الصدد انها لا تألوا جهدا في التصدي لكل المواقع التي تتعارض مع قانون الصحافة والطباعة والنشر لسنة ,2002 وان الجهود مستمرة في رصد كل المواقع التي تسيء لديننا الحنيف والى شخص الرسول الكريم.

Al-Waqt :: 11 Oct, ’06

It really doesn’t matter what they’re saying in that paragraph, other than to understand that the Ministry of disInformation has decided to close a couple of websites they deem to be anti-Islamic (while they leave much more poisonous ones well alone); however, the important thing is to look at that underlined sentence (my emphasis) which states that the Ministry will have no compunction in closing down or at least blocking any site that contravenes the Press & Publications Law 47 of 2002.

They’ve said that before, but why are they reiterating it again? If your answer was to emphasize the illegal act – as freedom of speech is an inalienable human right – that sites too are not allowed to write about Bandargate you have won yourself a Just Bahraini button! Call me to pick yours up.

That demonstrates to me that Mr. Hassan Oan, the guy who appears to have taken over from Jamal Dawood, has been taught well by his predecessor, who is now much in the throws of his parliamentary election campaign which incidentally is completely paid for by Ahmed Attiyatallah, yes, the generous author of the very same cheques central to Bandargate. In Dawood’s case, receiving BD 2,200: BD 1,000 for organising a football tourney and BD 1,200 for a tent! How cheap can you get? And you call this person who demanded the registration of websites “to help them” trustworthy and doesn’t have any altruistic motives if he can be bought? [1] [2]

Which brings me to the laugh of the day…

The first page of the Bandargate reportThe national papers wrote a letter (are you shaking in your slippers yet?), yes my friends, the guardians of free speech on this island, all 6 of them, wrote a letter of objection to the High Criminal Court judge licking his shoes and explaining to him their point of view that them, ya’ani, being banned from writing anything about the Bandargate report [blush] will only drive people to other news avenues most of which will not be as responsible as their good selves are [uncontrollable giggles].

They received a reply (arabic) which they published on their front pages basically telling them to bugger off and behave themselves and continue to be acquiescent morons toeing the line. OR ELSE!

Or else what for God’s sake? Ban the newspaper from going to print for a few days? What the hell matter would that be anyway? They’re all financed through huge big pipes that would not even notice even a moderate drop in its flow pressure. Make a STAND Goddammit! What are you put there for in the first place? Aren’t you supposed to be the fourth Estate?

If I was one of their publishers, I would just print a completely blank paper with NO NEWS at all, white spaces where all their articles would be, but just keep the advertising blocks. I bet that had that been done that that paper’s sale would have skyrocketed on that day (yes, all it takes is a single print to make the point) and the pressure will have increased many fold and redirected on the court to rescind that brain-dead decision.

Ooo what a happy day!

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Is our culture so weak?

New Bahraini National Flag UnveiledWhat 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.

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TERRORISM, definition of

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Let’s see… the UN says that terrorism is defined as:

criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them”. (GA Res. 51/210 Measures to eliminate international terrorism)

and says that the academic definition is:

“Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought” (Schmid, 1988).

UN ODC

While the CIA defines it as:

The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
CIA Terrorism FAQ

And terrorism according to ONE Muslim source, is:

If we consider the meaning of the word “terrorism” on the one hand, and its fallout and traces left on human life on the other, we note that terrorism may be carried out on different levels. There is a terrorism which threatens security, honour, property and the like; there is a cultural terrorism which tears human identity apart, and leads to the abyss of perdition and aimlessness; there is an information terrorism which deprives man of his freedom to breathe in an unpolluted atmosphere. We can cite other types of terrorism such as economic terrorism, scientific terrorism, diplomatic terrorism, military terrorism, etc.

BUT (yes, there is always a but):

There exists, however, a division based on the type of perpetrators, which must be taken into account. It is the division into official and unofficial terrorism. Official terrorism – which is the more dangerous – consists of all acts that are supported by an internationally recognized quarter or State, whether by the army of that State or individual elements or in the form of an operation for the benefit of the said quarter. Opposing this type of terrorism is unofficial terrorism.
Fifth Islamic Summit

In Wikipedia, it’s defined as:

Terrorism refers to a strategy of using violence, or threat of violence to generate fear, cause disruption, and ultimately, to bring about compliance with specific political, religious, ideological, or personal demands[1]. The targets of terrorist attacks typically are not the individuals who are killed, injured, or taken hostage, but rather the societies to which these individuals belong. Terrorism is a type of unconventional warfare designed to weaken or supplant existing political landscapes through capitulation or acquiescence, as opposed to subversion or direct military action. The broader influence of terrorism in the modern world is often attributed to the dramatic focus of mass media in amplifying feelings of intense fear and anger.
Wikipedia

See how disparate these definitions are? Is it any wonder that our own parliamentarians, bless their effervescent souls, should find it quite difficult to agree what it should be defined as? Well, in that case, as is usual to that malleable body, they lump everything together – like taking a pot-shot with a cannon at a tied and trussed bird – and call it intelligent:

According to the law, people who deal with foreign terrorist organisations receive a life sentence and if they carry out operations with their backing get the death penalty.

MPs also disagreed on the government’s definition of terrorism, which stipulates that anyone who uses violence or threatens others, whatever the reason or objective, to execute an act, whether alone or for a group, to terrorise people, or scare them, is considered a terrorist.

It also says that any threat to people’s lives, property, freedom, rights or security, or damage to the environment, public or private utilities or national resources and international facilities, is considered as a terrorist act.

The definition of a terrorist act also includes threats to regional stability and safety or the countries’ leaderships and politicians.

Some MPs are calling for the adoption of the definition of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to Combat International Terrorism, which was used in the money laundering law passed by parliament.

The definition specifically exclude armed struggle for liberation and self-determination.

Others believe that the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee, which studied the proposed law, did not cover all terrorist activities in its amendments.

Meanwhile, Al Wefaq National Islamic Society expressed its concern that the law was being pushed by the government.
GDN :: 12 July, ’06

Which, naturally, by utilising this froufrou definition includes anyone who farts in my presence, let alone someone who vociferously advocates sending the Bahrain Defence Forces to jihad to help our Palestinian brothers and sisters against a country which we accepted to have the right to exist!

And this hurts: that last call was done by someone whom I have heretofore regarded as a “good” force in parliament, and one whom I had held in high regard. What’s this brain fart then? It must have been released whilst thinking of re-election, at least I hope that is the case.

No matter. The essence is, if the Bahrain government definition is actually taken to be true and laws are based on that definition, then with my writings, and that of everyone else on the island, we are died in the wool terrorists and don’t be surprised too much if we are summarily executed while our brain-dead MPs stuff their faces with crisps while giving aiming instructions to our executioners!

The Bahrain parliament is capable of defining terrorism, while they still can’t decide whether to install “efrenji” or eastern “hole-in-the-ground” toilets in parliament! Hah!

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Woohoo, Wu Hao released!

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After 5 months of incarceration in a Chinese jail – and we all know the reason those premises got their 5-star rating – he has been released. The reason he was their guest for so long? Being a blogger and speaking his mind!

I’m really glad that this doesn’t happen in Bahrain (any more) especially as our king, His Majesty Shaikh Hamad is widely reported in the press today as being very keen on protecting the freedoms of expression.

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Sorry your Majesty, I wish it worked like that…ٍ

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Bahraini journalist Sawsan Al-Sha'er in an audience with the king of BahrainTime and again we are privileged to hear that our king, his majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Esa Al-Khalifa, is fully committed to see his vision realised in the reforms he initiated since he gained the throne. Time and again he unequivocally came out and said that he is for the freedoms of expression and he is for the improvement of the Bahraini people’s lives. At those times we get some articles praising his stance and positions in the national press; but only for those to be forgotten rather quickly and the same brain-dead heavy handed censorship re-applied, as if nothing has happened.

We are in one of those “reminder” periods once again…

A few weeks ago renowned Bahraini writer and “The Last Word” television program host, Sawsan Al-Sha’er, hosted Afaf Al-Jamri in that show in which they talked about a wide range of topics, including the dearth of parliamentary achievements in their inaugural term and other topics; however, the television censor took it upon him or herself to decide that it was against the national interest to broadcast those “derogatory” segments and editing scissors had chopped a few segments before it went to air.

That incensed Al-Sha’er, rightly, so she boycotted the program and stopped presenting it, the press took it up (arabic) and the king took notice (arabic), and once again had to step in to tell people that he respects differing opinions and that freedoms of expression are sacrosanct in Bahrain during an audience with his majesty yesterday with Ms. Al-Sha’er.

That’s all very laudable. But, I’m afraid, your majesty, that once again your Ministry of Information and the rest of the government apparatus will take note of your valuable advice for just a few days, “until things calm down”, and then they will unashamedly go back to exactly what they’ve been used to, and over-stepping the line and ignoring citizen’s rights is a certain reality.

Therefore, I respectfully suggest, your majesty, that as you are serious about these issues, and as you are the head of all powers in the Kingdom, that you issue a law – yes ignoring parliament – and put it in the constitution if you must, that will guarantee these rights in such a language that does not invite haphazard interpretation which could once again restrict our rights.

If I may further suggest, your majesty, as all advanced and most advancing countries do not have a Ministry of Information, it would do the country good to once and for all dismantle it and free the television, broadcasting, and press markets once and for all; in one stroke you would have saved your government an inordinate amount of money and much more heartache as well as increase our good shares in the world’s psyche that we are indeed a developing nation who no longer believe in packaged state propaganda.

As constructive criticism is also very high on your majesty’s mind, you might want to remove those things that people have been constructively and passionately complaining about: I draw your majesty’s attention to the inappropriate Assembly Law which took only 12 minutes to be approved by your Shura Council and which specifically flies in the face of your citizen’s freedoms and rights as human beings apart from being at variance with the various human rights protocols which the kingdom is party to, repeal Law 56 of 2002 which equated torturers with their victims, repeal Law 47 of 2002 which shackled the press and freedoms of expression, re-distributed electoral districts with fairness and amend the constitution in such a way that the parliament truly represents your people, the ability to question any minister – including the prime minister – in open parliamentary session would also be a good idea and will demonstrate that we are truly a transparent and civil society.

I am sure that there are a lot more things I can propose, your majesty, however, I shall refrain from doing so at this moment as I believe the above are sufficient to allow your citizens to live with dignity and if promulgated, would return you back to your rightful place, carried with pride on the shoulders of your happy citizens.

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Irrepressible

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Here’s a pledge that I would – and have – taken quite readily:

I believe the Internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference.

I call on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet – and on companies to stop helping them do it.

Irrepressible.Info

Sounds good? Of course it does.
Sounds fair? Of course it does.

Today Amnesty International and The Observer collaborated again and launched another initiative that would ensure respect for and upholds the freedoms of speech in the digital age. They’re asking us to do something very simple, just abide by the pledge represented above.

If you would like to lend your support, before you head over to Irrepressible.Info, think deeply within yourself how YOU could uphold this right and help everyone in the digital domain to speak their minds without the fear of persecution, vilification, imprisonment and other state sponsored terrorism against the individual’s right to express him or herself.

For instance, the Ministry of Information in Bahrain has still NOT rescinded the requirement to register websites, even though the penalties in that administrative order are not applied now, doesn’t mean – in the continued presence of that order – that it won’t be applied at any time or against any webmaster or owner in the future. One wishes of course that the Ministry of Information would unequivocally come out and say that this order is not longer valid and has been cancelled…

Of course we shouldn’t also forget that despicable Press Law 47 (arabic) which every journalist is living under…

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Citizen Journalists win against Apple, Bahrain MoI are you listening?

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Briefly, Apple was pissed off with a site scooping it and releasing information it deemed still confidential, so they went after the guy who published the news and he didn’t budge, and in their infinite wisdom Apple thought they’d bring out their 4-pound hammers to force it out of the webmaster telling the court that (to the effect) as he’s not registered with the Ministry of Information he should not enjoy “real” journalist privileges, so he should tell them who the leaker was.

The court brought out its verdict last week telling Apple to, well, stuff it!

This is a huge win (in the States) for online forums, bloggers and citizen journalists. I’m not holding my breath for courts in Bahrain to be this partial to us, nor do I have any trust for the Ministry of Information that it will retool itself to be the protector of freedoms of speech and be a catalyst that would propel writers and journalists to excel in their jobs. But this event is certainly something that the powers that be should keep very much in mind.

A state appeals court on Friday rejected Apple Computer Inc.’s bid to identify the sources of leaked product information that appeared on Web sites, ruling that online reporters and bloggers are entitled to the same protections as traditional journalists.

“In no relevant respect do they appear to differ from a reporter or editor for a traditional business-oriented periodical who solicits or otherwise comes into possession of confidential internal information about a company,” Justice Conrad Rushing of the 6th District Court of Appeal wrote in a unanimous 69-page ruling.

“We decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes ‘legitimate journalism,” he wrote. “The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here.”

The online journalists are thus entitled to the protections provided under California’s shield law as well as the privacy protections for e-mails allowed under federal law, the court ruled.
AP
Hat tip: BuzzMachine

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Let the fireworks begin; Nancy is in town!

Nancy's in town, and everyone is waiting for a couple of parliamentary members' brainfarts

The last time this young lady came to Bahrain, we had parliamentary and street riots, with people lying on the roads leading to her performance venue, quite a number of burnt tyres and scuffles with police, all apparently planned and executed by Islamists in parliament and the street. Ironically that was one of the few occasions in Bahrain’s recent history where both Sunni extremists as well as Shi’a both came together to form “the Nancy Opposition Movement.”

The concert did go ahead, but Nancy was so scared that she didn’t dare show skin (and she could show plenty!) but chose to wear jeans and a very conservative top. It must have been very stifling creatively for the lovely siren, being restricted with those close while performing.

No matter, the important thing is that it was Nancy – and no one else and I say that with hand on heart – that started our real democracy and the fight for personal freedoms rolling, and it hasn’t stopped yet.

Now, everyone on the island is expecting a repeat of the previous experience three years ago, and I know people would gladly pay through the nose to thumb theirs at the Islamist dimwits who everyone expects to create yet another unneeded and unwarranted ruckus.

The cartoon in today’s Al-Wasat is quite apt, and also demonstrates quite plainly that some MPs are in it for their egos rather than the good of the country, or even worse, some just cannot separate parliamentary work and that of religious preaching.

The guy in the cartoon is calling an MP (most probably the usual posse of Islamists/Salafis/Wahabi: Mohammed Khaled, Jassim Al-Saidi, Adel Al-Moawdah – though he’s been rather subdued of late – Ali Mattar, Abdulla Al-A’ali, and the rest) and saying “Hello, Mr. MP, Nancy Ajram returned to Bahrain, get prepared as this is your game!”

I’m putting my money on Nancy to win by a head. What’s yours on?

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