Tag Archives freedoms

Freedom of Speech, UAE style

Have a load of this, the UAE has issued a federal law on combating cyber crime:

Some of the offences and their punishment:
– Abuse of any Islamic holy shrines or rituals.

– Abuse of holy shrines and religious rituals stipulated in other religions since such rituals are maintained in accordance to the rulings of Islamic Sharia.

– Article No 16 states that anyone found breaking family principles and values or publishing news or pictures related to the private life of the family members will be jailed for no less than one year and fined Dh50,000.

– Article No 17 stipulates that anyone found setting up a website or publishing information using internet or any other cyber means for the purpose of human trafficking will be temporarily imprisoned.

– Article No 18 states that anyone found using websites to sell narcotics will be temporarily jailed.

– Article No 19 states that anyone found transferring dirty money or concealing their sources will be sentenced to no more than seven years and a fine of no less than Dh30,000 and up to Dh200,000.

– Article No 20 states that anyone found publishing information in breach of general order and public decency will be sentenced to not more than five years in jail.

How many have I broken of these draconian laws? Boy am I glad that I’m in Bahrain… for now… why? Because my friends, we normally import the worst that the Emirates dishes out. I just hope against hope that in this particular case, we will adopt something like these laws instead.

I think due to these laws, blogging is the Emirates is dead. So is the whole internet.

Bahrain should immediately start accepting applications for the BAHRAIN INTERNET CITY and the BAHRAIN MEDIA CITY and we will even give honorary citizenship to Secret Dubai so she can move here at her will and continue to poke fun at both Bahrain and the Emirates, joined of course by one of my favourties: Ben Kerishan! 😉

Of course all deals are off if Bahrain decides to just import these draconian laws and miss yet another opportunity to make something out of itself.

via UAE community blog

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Even more!

Jamal Dawood must be salivating at the prospect of me finding even more bloggers that he potentially can prosecute!

Following on from a tip by Haitham Sabbah, I looked at a whole list of Bahraini blogs on blogger.com, and am I absolutely glad that I have ’cause I found out that one of my favourite journalist has a blog too!

Heart Gate is an Arabic blog by Bahraini journalist and cinema enthusiast (he’s also very involved in the Bahrain Cinema Club) Mohammed Fadhel. I always look forward to his columns, and now his blog will be a definite fixture in my daily cruises.

Thanks for the tip Haitham.

update 050820L2023: blogger link fixed thanks to News Reblog Blog team observation. Thanks guys

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According to Jamal Dawood, 82 sites already registred…

When you consider that there are possibly tens of thousands of sites about Bahrain or are run from it, this is an abject failure (arabic) of his department.

What boggles the mind is that he still doesn’t take the opportunity to tell the whole world that the government, and his department in particular, has listened to criticism and acted democratically by abolishing this archaic administrative order.

I guess his office should really celebrate Bahrain taking THIRD PLACE in the Most Dangerous Places to Blog from!

Jamal Dawood now says that his department has referred 46 (yes FORTY SIX) cases to the Public Prosecutor including some websites for transgressing various offences including the Press Law over the last six months.

Bahrain is about to become even a more dangerous place to blog from… if you blog under your own identity that is.

Can someone please put an end to this farce? Can we please take back what has been lost in image and reputation before it is lost for ever?

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Reports land journalist in the dock

A 52-year-old Bahraini journalist is being prosecuted for allegedly writing for a newspaper abroad without government permission.

He should have had official permission from the Information Ministry, the Lower Criminal Court heard.

The defendant, a journalist for nearly 30 years, is charged with illegally working as a correspondent for a Kuwaiti newspaper.

He admitted at an earlier hearing writing for the Kuwaiti paper, but told the court he had no idea that he needed ministry permission.

The ministry sent a complaint to the public prosecution that the journalist was acting as a correspondent for the newspaper without obtaining official permission.

It said it had repeatedly warned him to stop sending articles abroad without permission.

He has violated the Press and Publication Law of 2002, said the ministry.

The defendant worked illegally as a correspondent for the paper from March 8, 2002 to February 28, 2003, says the prosecution.

He told the court he stopped sending articles abroad for some time when he learned he could be prosecuted if he did not have official permission.

“I asked officials at the Information Ministry about the requirements one needs to practice this profession of becoming a journalist and a correspondent here in Bahrain,” he said.

“They told me that they wanted a letter from the editor-in-chief of the Kuwaiti newspaper requesting the Information Ministry to register me as its correspondent in Bahrain.”

He said the paper sent the letter as requested and he continued as a correspondent.

The court adjourned the case until September 12, to find out whether the ministry had given permission or not.
GDN :: Mohammed Aslam :: 30 May 2005

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State Censorship in Disguise

Another international publication contacted me to elicit my views regarding the Ministry of Information’s administrative order requiring all websites to register with them, and what actions are being taken by webmasters, if any, to counteract that order. He began by asking me if any blogger has actually registered with them so far, what you read below is my response to his questions.

None, as far as I know. Not a single blog or online forum has registered nor are any intending to do so, despite the insistence of the Ministry of Information that they have in fact received “a number” of registration applications. I would like to see those numbers, I would guess they will never produce those, the Ministry of Information is not known for its transparency.

As to the actions I proposed, number 1 (non registration) seems to be a universal agreement between all webmasters I know. The government would probably produce some at the end of the 6 months drive. Although I didn’t notice any ads, educational campaign nor anything to suggest that there is indeed a “drive”.

I’m considering the petition route, but judging how petitions in this country riles up the government with mass incarcerations and the increase in volume of its stooge press (Al-Ayam, Akbar Al-Khaleej (Arabic) and Bahrain Tribune (English) and until very recently the GDN) which happily brand anyone standing up for rights as an insurgent at best, and an outright traitor at worst, I’ll have to be careful. I do not relish spending any time in prison, which is a very very real threat. Especially if they throw the full weight of The Press and Publications Law 47 of 2002 at you.

Due to our reactions (the bloggers and the GDN columnists) , the Ministry has come out and categorically said (via the undersecretary Mahmood Al-Mahmood) that registration is no longer “mandatory”, however a couple of days after that, another undersecretary at the same ministry, Dr. Abdulla Yateem, the press and publications undersecretary, commented on an article on Al-Wasat Newspaper with fire and brimstone [Al-Wasat, Arabic] where the whole registration process is to (1) protect the authors’ copyright, (2) hold people liable for what they write and to (3) protect against child pornography and (4) “immoral” sites being created in Bahrain. Any moderately observant person would find complete contradictions in these goals. Not, apparently, anyone at the ministry of disinformation of course.

What comes next is anybody’s guess. We are determined not to register, especially that “they” declared that it is not mandatory, however, you can rest assured that they will try to close EVERY site that does not register by taking us to court for anything that we have written which could even in the slightest be considered libelous. The cut-off date is October 1st, 2005. If it comes to that, obviously a lot of people will have their arms twisted or you will see the death of the internet as far as non-anonymous posting is concerned, the whole movement will be driven underground and will mushroom completely out of their control. You will probably find that most IPs blocked completely, so it would be worth our while NOW to investigate proxy services through which we can reach our sites. Incidentally, it seems that “they” with Batelco have blocked most if not all proxy sites recently, this is just 10 days ago, which should be a harbinger for what is to come.

There have been (shy) protests mainly in support of Ali Abdulimam and the government’s refusal to remove his (and his colleagues) travel restrictions and more importantly not dropping the case against them. The last protest also was to protest against the registration drive. You can view full coverage of Ali’s demos etc at Chan’ad’s blog and also Free Ali blog which is an aggregate of all the articles Bahraini bloggers have written about the subject as well as some pertinent press articles.

What are the lessons learnt? NONE! As far as the government is concerned it cannot be seen to lose face, so even if one of its morons brings out a completely ludicrous administrative order such as this one, they will not back down. So, they put their wagons in a circle and gerrymander everyone to “see their way”.

As far as bloggers are concerned, the lesson learnt is: BLOG ANONYMOUSLY!

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A light-bulb faintly goes on

From this morning’s GDN

Webmasters are free to register

WEBMASTERS will not be hounded into registering their sites with the Information Ministry, authorities said yesterday.

Information Under-Secretary Mahmood Al Mahmood said although the rules state that Bahrain websites must be registered with the ministry, it will not be actively pursuing them.

“Our goal is to encourage people to follow the legal way and a large number of websites have already registered. But we will not be actively pursuing all websites that are not registered,” he said.

“It’s the same as registering a car. If your car is not registered and no one hears about it, then you won’t get into any trouble. But if the authorities hear about it, then you could.”

A six-month campaign has been launched to register all Bahraini websites.

Webmasters face similar laws to newspapers related to libel, public decency and ethics. Just as a newspaper editor-in-chief is held responsible for what he publishes, so will a webmaster.

Ministry printing and publishing director Jamal Dawood said the ministry has an application form that people can pick up and fill.

“They will be issued with a registration number which they should put on their home page.”

Mr Dawood said no one would face prosecution merely for failing to register. He said registration was in the webmasters’ own good.

Rights

“We cannot protect people’s intellectual property rights without having them registered.”

Mr Dawood said people cannot register online at the moment because his directorate doesn’t have a website. For more information, he said people can call 17717525 or email [email protected]

Meanwhile, the ministry’s new policies were blasted by Bahrain’s first web blogger Mahmood Al Yousif who said if they weren’t going to be enforced properly, they are meaningless.

“This means that the law is going to be applied unequally and if it will be applied haphazardly, then it is useless.”

Mr Al Yousif, who runs www.mahmood.tv, said this policy will only victimise people who are courageous enough to reveal their identity on the Internet.

“There are many ways of disguising your identity on the Internet. Since these people cannot be identified, the law cannot be applied to them,” he said.

The Internet blogging community, said Mr Al Yousif, has its own way of dealing with irresponsible bloggers.

“The blogging phenomenon, which has been sweeping the world for the past few years, has done wonders for progressing and protecting democracy because it’s about normal people putting down their thoughts without having to go through the traditional editorial process.”

This piece was by Tariq Khonji whose site http://tariqkhonji.com is well worth a visit.

This to me is progress, in as much as they (Dawood and Al-Mahmood) seem to have realised that they’re getting into deep water here so it’s best to find a way out. It is unfortunate however that they chose to unequally apply the law – which in their minds is a legitimate thing!

And pray tell us Mr. Al-Mahmood and Mr. Dawood, how is it that you want to “regulate” the internet and you don’t even have a website?

For this very fact, and for the fact that you RUN the Ministry of Information I hearby un-libellously brand you morons of the month!

related articles:
Freedom of Speech my big toe!
How to blog anonymously

Bloggers’ Code of Ethics document & discussion. Please participate.

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Webmasters clamp ‘can prevent libel’

New rules asking webmasters to register their sites with the Information Ministry should not be used to stifle freedom of expression, political activists said yesterday. Some were totally opposed to any registration, saying it could be the beginning of a slippery slope which could lead to further restrictions and unfair legal action to be taken against webmasters.

Others said the registration rule should only be used to prosecute people for libel and similar crimes and that there should not be an attempt by government officials to control the content of websites.

National Democratic Action Society board member Ebrahim Alsayed said this development is the latest in a series of moves designed to stifle the population.

“It follows recent proposed anti-terror, gatherings and political societies laws, which are examples of backward steps being taken following Bahrain’s previous democratic reforms,” he said.

“It fits into a bigger scenario of the government controlling society, limiting freedom of expression, freedom of organisation and the ability of the public to put pressure on it.”

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Freedom of Speech my big toe!

Webmasters must register or face legal action

Webmasters face prosecution if they defy new rules announced by Bahraini authorities. All Bahraini websites set up here or abroad must register with the Information Ministry or face legal action, it was declared yesterday.

A six-month campaign is being launched next Monday to register all Bahraini websites, under orders from Information Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar.

“The ministry will announce soon the details of how each website owner or supervisor can register,” Information Under-Secretary Mahmood Al Mahmood told the GDN.

“If they fail to register then legal action will be taken against them based on the country’s printing and publishing laws.”

He said websites would face similar laws to newspapers, related to libel, public decency and ethics.

Just as a newspaper editor-in-chief is held responsible for what he publishes, so will the webmasters be, he said.

Ministry printing and publishing director Jamal Dawood said registration procedures would be in line with those for all types of publications, including newspapers, leaflets, audio and visual media.

GDN

We woke up this morning to this. We first got wind of it through a very Silly site.

That the Ministry of Information continues to innovate and create new ways to drag the name of these islands in shite. The ministry being an extremely important appendage of Bahrain, Inc. can’t have come to this conclusion by themselves, they (the whole government) must be still smarting from the bahrainonline.org debacle, when sane people would think twice on generating adverse publicity once again by trying to control what is printed, this time they seem to have gone a step further and want to penalise us for our thoughts as well.

Nothing new of course, after all, the impression that the Ministry of Information is most concerned about is the complete destruction of Bahrain’s reputation nationally and internationally.

However, the Ministry of Information is really not to blame, it is an executive body trying to keep within the letter of the law. The blame is fully on the parliament’s doorstep and every single member of that impotent organ, be they elected or appointed. Functioning for over 3 years now without a single law that would improve Bahrain’s standing in the world, nor a single one that would improve our standards of living. Unless of course you consider that allowing veiled women to drive, protecting us from Nancy Ajram, or the requests to the Ministry of Works to install traffic bumps on roads achievements.

6 months.

We have 6 months to fight this brain-fart, or else just shut up and gobble it all up. And although we cannot depend on the parliament, unfortunately it’s the only place we have to petition to do something.

Therefore what I propose is:

1. Don’t register any site, if at the expiry of the 6-month deadline comes about without any progress, put up a statement on our websites declaring the death of freedoms of speech in Bahrain and abandon the sites.

2. Organise an on-line petition where all webmasters and website patrons can electronically sign. At the end of the 6 month period print it out and hand it to the Chairman of the National Assembly. As it is his chamber through Ibrahim Bashmi who is working on the new press and media laws rather than the moronic chamber of representatives.

3. Immediately organise a meeting and invite ALL webmasters to attend to take this issue further.

If they think that we’d be lying down and taking it, they’ve got another thing coming.

Who’s with me?

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Watch’em Sweat!

2006 is oh so close I could almost smell it! Why, You ask? Elections of course! The time to boot out all of the jokers in parliament and hopefully replace them with better people who won’t chase capital away from the island, who will recognise terrorists and call them as such, who won’t object to Nancy Ajram and create riots, who won’t object to staging a play (arabic) because its name has the word “Falujah” in it.

And to back all that up? The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, awakening from a deep slumber shook by Farouq Al-Moayyed put the ante of BD 1 million as cash prizes (arabic) to who they choose to run for parliament with a good economic agenda!

That by itself got our dear MPs to shit bricks, the first of which actually had a heart attack a couple of nights ago and had to be hospitalised. While we wish him a very speedy recovery and Insha’Allah a very long and fruitful life, we will be happy to see the back of him, and his ilk in order to make way for people who care about this country and not use the parliament as their personal pulpit to restrict personal freedoms, and who are not ineffectual fools in the face of continuous government harassment and coercion.

All in all, the past few days especially seem to have been loaded with press releases, posturing, positioning and jostling in a clear indication that the election fever for 2006 has already started…

Let the Games Begin!

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