Tag Archives libel

‘Alaan’ taken to court for libel in Kuwait

Dr. Saad bin Tifla Al-Ajami - publisher of Alaan.cc Internet newspaper in KuwaitThe Kuwait authorities levied charges of libel against Dr. Saad bin Tifla [translate], the publisher of the first online newspaper in the Gulf – Alaan – citing their Press & Publications Law of 2006. Dr Saad, an ex-minister of information in Kuwait, refuted the charges on the basis that the said law does not specify Internet publications and that as the server is physically in the United States, the Kuwaiti authorities have no jurisdiction over the site and its contents.

I wish Dr. Saad much luck with his case and fully support him and his points of view in this regard. The whole Arab world should seriously reconsider their stances against peaceful freedoms of expression and give up the ideology of control of information. They should come to the realisation that their much trusted “big red switch” no longer functions in this day and age. The quicker they come to that realisation, the better our chances at responsibly integrating with the world.

Attempting to shut websites and continuing to harass their webmasters simply for content they do not agree with is, in fact, one of the quickest ways of being shunned by the modern world.

Our governments seem to not understand that in this dynamic era, this and future generations will not be intimidated by their measures. Respect of basic human rights of which freedoms of express is central, is the only way to true partnership which will fully engage us in the development of our countries and societies.

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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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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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BJA Press Release in regards to the case settlement between Al-Yousif and bin Rajab

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بيان من جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية

الجمعية تعلن ارتياحها للمصالحة بين البلوغر “اليوسف” والوزير “رجب”

تعلن جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية عن ارتياحها للمصالحة التي تمت بين البلوغر البحريني محمود اليوسف ووزير البلديات منصور بن رجب والتي أفضت إلى سحب القضية المرفوعة أمام القضاء البحريني ضد البلوغر اليوسف.

هذا، وتتقدم الجمعية بالشكر الجزيل إلى المحامية فاطمة الحواج – ممثلة الجمعية في الدفاع عن البلوغر محمود اليوسف على ما قدمته من جهود في سبيل إتمام هذه المصالحة مقدرة الدور الإيجابي للمحاميين البحرينيين في الدفاع عن الصحافة والصحفيين وعن حرية الكلمة في البحرين.

هذا، وتأتي هذه المصالحة بعدما عبرت شتى الفعاليات السياسية في البحرين عن مساندتها لموقف الجمعية الداعم للبلوغر اليوسف، ومن هذا المنطلق، تتقدم الجمعية بشكرها لجميع المؤسسات السياسية والحقوقية التي ساهمت في دعم قضية البلوغر محمود اليوسف من داخل البحرين وخارجها.

إننا في جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية نؤمن بأن حرية المدونيين البحرينيين في تناول شتى الموضوعات السياسية والحقوقية والاجتماعية والثقافية هي جزء لا يتجزأ من حرية الإنسان البحريني في التعبير عن رأيه. ونؤمن أيضاً، ان المدونات البحرينية اليوم هي إحدى فصول المكون الإعلامي في البحرين.

إن حرية الكلمة والفضاءات المفتوحة للرأي هي الضمانة الرئيسية في اكتمال العملية السياسية والتنموية في البلاد، وهو ما يجعلنا في جمعية الصحفيين مسئولين عن الدفاع عن هذه الضمانة في وجه إي محاولة لقمعها أو الانتقاص منها.

عادل مرزوق
نائب رئيس جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية
6-5-2007

Sorry, I don’t have time to translate it just now as I have to be elsewhere, but will try to do so tomorrow. Needless to say, I would like to thank the BJA very much indeed for standing by me and all bloggers in Bahrain in support of the basic human right of freedom of speech.

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The minister recants and withdraws case

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Very quickly after lodging an official complaint with the Public Prosecution, the Minister of Electricity and Water has recanted and withdrawn the libel case against a municipal councillor after mediation efforts by the councilor’s colleagues.

استجاب وزير الكهرباء الشيخ عبد الله بن سلمان آل خليفة للجهود المكثفة التي قام بها رئيسا مجلسي بلدي الشمالية والوسطى يوسف البوري وعبدالرحمن الحسن، وقرر سحب الشكوى التي كانت الوزارة قد تقدمت بها للنيابة العامة ضد عضو بلدي الوسطى صادق ربيع، على خلفية اتهاماته للوزارة بالفساد في مؤتمر صحافي عقده الشهر الماضي.

وكان الوزير، قد استقبل أمس (الخميس) وفداً بلدياً ضم رئيس بلدي الشمالية يوسف البوري والوسطى عبدالرحمن الحسن، ونائبه عباس محفوظ، إضافة إلى عضو بلدي الوسطى صادق ربيع، وذلك للتفاهم والتنسيق بشأن القضية المشار إليها، فيما ثمن بلدي الوسطى، موقف الوزير واستجابته مشكورا بسحب القضية من النيابة العامة، على أن تسلم جميع الملفات ذات العلاقة للوزير لدراستها ومتابعتها مع المجلس البلدي
الوقت – ٢٠/Ù¤/٢٠٠٧

This is good news of course. Apart from the fact that – in an impartial judicial system – there is no way that the minister would win this case; the Ministry of Electricity’s reputation in particular is far from pure, he has shown complete intolerance to criticism and rather than asking for the allegations to be brought forward to be rationally discussed and any shortcomings identified and eradicated, he has taken the now fashionable line which is “sue now, ask questions later.”

What was the end result of this action then? A meeting between the two protagonists took place and promises were made that the shortcomings identified by the municipal councillor will be documented and treated.

Why this was not done from day one and save time and spent reputations is anyone’s guess. The result as far as I can see is that it has now become de rigeur to sue without any thought at what these actions by high officials actually do to the reputation of the country as a whole.

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mum’s the word

This sounds SO familiar!

وقال العضو البلدي ربيع في رده على الاتهام الموجه له: أنا قلت ما قلت من باب ممارسة دوري الرقابي الذي يكفله الدستور لي كمواطن وكعضو بلدي، وقد ناشدت جلالة الملك بالتدخل لإصلاح أوضاع الوزارة إصلاحاً كلياً.

وأكد «أنا لم أهن أية سلطة، وإنما كنت أمارس دوري الرقابي، وهدفي كان الصالح العام وليس توجيه الإهانة لأي أحد».

يشار إلى أن المادة (216) من قانون العقوبات تنص على أنه «يعاقب بالحبس أو الغرامة من أهان بإحدى طرق العلانية المجلس الوطني أو غيره من الهيئات النظامية أو الجيش أو المحاكم أو السلطات أو المصالح العامة».
الوسط – ١٩/Ù¤/٢٠٠٧

The councillor stated that: “I did not insult any authority, what I did was exercise my oversight responsibility and my intention was to the general good of the country rather than purposefully insulting anyone“.

In an email interview, the Jerusalem Post reporter asked me whether the troubles I am facing are symptomatic of attempts by the government of Bahrain to silence criticism. I answered no, of course not, I don’t believe in conspiracies.

I would like to change my answer now to the affirmative.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any shadow of a doubt any more. Any criticism is not taken as just that any more, an attempt from concerned citizens to better their lot and to act in a supervisory role and attempt with their criticism to correct or at least highlight the various ills they experience on a daily basis in their own country, but as personal attacks and summary insults that hurt delicate feelings of purer than pure government organs and their officials.

More gardening and photography posts coming up!

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Squeeky clean government

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Bahrain’s is the only country in the world that can claim that its government organs and personnel are completely free of corruption.

Saying anything to the contrary, even if you were an elected official, would put you in the dock.

How is that for an ordinary citizen then?

I think it’s probably safer to avoid even hinting of these things from now on…

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Case Deferred

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We went to the court this morning with a number of people already present and offered their support. But due to the main judge’s family bereavement, for which I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali on the passing of his mother, the case has been administratively deferred to be heard on May 8th.

I would also like to sincerely thank everyone who was present and all of those who called, emailed and texted their support as well.

In particular I would like to thank the lead advocate Ms. Fatima Al-Hawaj and the legal team offered by the Bahrain Human Rights Society to assist Ms. Al-Hawaj in the case, Lawyers Nawaf Al-Sayed and Lo’ay Qarouni; Tawfiq Al-Rayyash, Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the head of the Bahrain Journalists Union Mohammed Fadhel, journalists Mohammed Al-Sawwad from Al-Waqt (who was involved very recently in a similar case), Mohammed Aslam of the GDN, Mohammed Abbas of Reuters, Sandeep Singh Grewal from the Bahrain Tribune and Adel Al-Shaikh from Al-Wasat.

I would also like to sincerely thank my family who have always stood by me. My wife Frances, my brother Jamal and sister Maha as well as my children. I am sure that if my other siblings were in Bahrain they would have not hesitated an instant by being present to offer their support.

The legal team have asked for the case’s documents for their review and preparation, and we await the new court’s date to present our case before the High Criminal Court.

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Thoughts on tomorrow

Thank you all for your unstinting support. I truly appreciate it.

What I want to emphasize, if I may, this is not really a case against Mahmood Al-Yousif as much as it is a case against the tenets of the freedom of expression.

We, the people, should not be cowed into a status of never questioning or criticising a government official no matter how high that position is. They have to realise themselves, or be made to realise that the positions they occupy being called “civil servants” is no accident of nomenclature, but fact.

Unfortunately, both the Penal Code and the Press & Publications Law specifically not only discourages this civic responsibility of criticism, but glaringly criminalise it!

Is it any wonder that these very officials have risen within their own spheres to a status of demi-gods, inviolate, unapproachable and completely disconnected with the very people they are sworn to serve?

Parliament, on the other hand, continues to prevaricate and hasn’t even scheduled discussions on a retooled Press & Publications law which will elevate freedoms of expression in all its forms, concerning themselves more with perceived sorcerers and witches!

No, this is not a case against Mahmood Al-Yousif and never was. What I have written is rather mild when you consider it. This is a case purposefully levied to silence criticism.

Today it is me. Tomorrow it is everyone who dares to even glance “wrongly” at a public official, even if that official happens to be a janitor.

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At the High Court at 9:30 for 10:00

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We’re all gathering tomorrow morning at the Court building at 9:30. Cases are looked at starting at 10:00am.

It’s a freedom of expression case, any way you look at it. Please show your opposition to attempts to stifle this freedom by being there.

Thank you.

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