Reporters Without Borders is astonished by a criminal court’s decision on 21 October to convict Saleh Al-Amm, the editor of the online newspaper Al-Saheefa (www.alsaheefa.net), Fareed Al-Shayeb, one of his reporters, and Muath Al-Mesri, a columnist for the Al Wasat newspaper, of posting defamatory articles on the Al-Saheefa website. They were fined 200 dinars (370 euros).
“The defamatory nature of this articles was by no means established,” the press freedom organisation said. “Attacks on free expression are on the increase in Bahrain.”
Article 365 of the Bahraini criminal code and article 46 of the press code have been used to prosecute at least 14 journalists, bloggers and website administrators in the past six months
15.10 - Eighteen censored websites in the Kingdom : Reporters without borders writes to the king of Bahrain
Robert Ménard, Reporters without borders’ general secretary, adressed the following letter to Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain, on October 14th.
Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends press freedom worldwide, would again to like to express its concern about your kingdom’s Internet policies. This is our second letter to you this year asking you to keep a eye on issues concerning freedom of information in your kingdom and to address any abuses in order to guarantee pluralism.
The information ministry has just censored a human rights website for the 26th time this year. We already expressed our outrage to you in January about the censorship of the website operated by Human Rights Information (HRInfo). This time it is the website of the Movement of Liberties and Democratic Bahrain (www.haaq.org) that has been rendered inaccessible to your subjects for the past week. Banning access to a source of information about civil liberties is outrageous and is a serious violation of the right to diverse news and information.
No fewer than 18 websites are currently banned by the information ministry. Most of them are discussion forums and political websites. We reiterate our call for the lifting of the ban that has been imposed on news websites and blogs on the grounds that they have referred to the “Bandargate” political scandal, in which members of the government are allegedly involved. We are astonished by your apparent indifference to this situation since January.
Determined to oppose the continuation of your current Internet policies, we hope you will take account of this new request to let your subjects express themselves online and allow the Internet to develop freely. We remind you that we already told you of our concern in April 2005 about your government’s adoption of a regulation requiring websites dealing with Bahrain to register with the information ministry.
Lifting the censorship on these 18 websites would send a clear signal that your are paying attention to the situation of freedom of expression in your kingdom.
We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration."