Published: 1st September 2008

BLOGGERS, webmasters, and online journalists yesterday signed a code of ethics that promotes tolerance and unity for electronic media.

The Electronic Publishers' Code of Ethics Against Hate Speech was signed during a launch party held to coincide with International Blogger's Day.

Information Minister Jihad Bukamal, political societies and other VIP's attended the party.

The code of ethics is spearheaded by Bahraini blogger Mahmood Al Yousif and Al Waqt newspaper journalist Ahmed Al Aradi.

It has been developed in the past three months by a group of founding members with contributions from journalists, bloggers and political societies.

The code, which is the first in the Gulf, outlines guidelines and principles that promote national unity and shuns entries that incite sectarianism and sedition.

A Bahrain Bloggers' Code of Ethics already exists, but has been reworked to take a stronger stance against sectarianism and discrimination for all electronic journalists.

The new code was launched last month to mark Bahrain's independence from Britain on August 14, 1971.

An electronic version of the code will be launched and located at a web address where electronic media will be able to sign to say they have adopted the code.

The code, in Arabic and English, will also be available on Mr Al Yousif's blog http://mahmood.tv/.

Mr Al Yousif, also known as the Blogfather, said that after the signatures were collected there would be a follow-up.

"There will be a group that will follow up those who signed the code and ensure that they stick to it," he said.

"They will have to abide by the code and change their way of writing if necessary."

Mr Al Yousif earlier said that the code had received the support of political and human rights societies and electronic media around the world, including the US.

He said it had seven main points that reaffirmed freedom of speech and shunned discrimination of any sort.

Mr Al Yousif said seven signatories to the code would be elected onto a council, which would form a committee that would be responsible for appraising offences and issuing warnings.

The council will continue to develop the code and propagate anti-sectarianism.

He said that according to the code, webmasters would have 24 hours to remove any material that is in violation.

If they continue to transgress the code the committee will issue a verbal warning and if needed another would be sent in writing.

Mr Al Yousif said guests who write offensive messages should be sent a written warning by the webmaster and if unheeded they should be disconnected.

Meanwhile, the founding members of the code have launched a competition inviting the public to design a logo to represent the code that will feature on the websites that adopt it.

The competition winner will receive BD200, which is being sponsored by the founding members.

Those wishing to enter the competition should email Mr Al Yousif at http://mahmood.tv/.

Mr Al Yousif has also set up a public Facebook group, Bloggers Against Sectarianism.

He estimates that Bahrain has more than 210 blogs, while electronic engine forums, websites and blogs for discussions exceed about 2,000.

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© Gulf Daily News