In Sync with the Security Crackdown Launched by the Bahraini Authorities against Political Activists, Religious Figures and Human Rights Defenders

4 September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its deep concerns regarding the Bahraini authorities’ continuous actions against freedom of opinion and expression by blocking web sites. This time the action consists of closing dozens of websites and online forums of an organized campaign aimed to consolidate media blackouts of internal security on political activists, religious figures, as well as defenders of human rights. Bahrain Center for Human Rights has received numerous complaints from owners of websites which were blocked without warning. Among the blocked websites is[1] which is known for its rapid media coverage and photos of protests and the instability in the country. It constantly follows up on news of rising arrests, and publishing press statements of the oppositions and human rights organizations. These are topics that the local press usually do not convey as a result of the regime dominance on audio, visual and printed media. Several other similar websites known for publishing oppositional views were blocked, as well as some religious and social websites. The majority of the recent blocked websites are discussion forums that belong to the Shiite villages; villages witnessing continuous nightly unrest, protesting for several months because of the discrimination they suffered, and the constant political naturalization to change the demographics. These villages witness the takeover of land and the coasts by the king and his family in addition to the arrest of many of the protestors in the villages. Moreover, a Yemeni website "Taiz today" concentrating on local Yemeni news and some news from the Arab world was also blocked. It is believed that the reason for blocking this site is because it has been publishing statements and reports from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

This web crackdown synchronized with appeals by parties close to the regime aired on Bahrain TV[3], where they called on the government to block websites, claimed to "incite to spread poisonous ideas and damage national unity", incriminating several websites that publish documented coverage with photos and evidences of the violations of citizen rights in the Bahraini villages committed by security forces. In addition to this, cases in which the National Security Apparatus is responsible for the kidnappings, and physical and sexual abuse by the militias belonging to it.

In the absence of independent press and media and with the governmental dominance on all sources of information, these online forums and websites have become competitors with newspapers and local media in terms of the speed of news reports. They also discuss freedom of speech and sensitive and taboo subjects, and the ability of these sites to document the political and human rights is forbidden. Among the recent blocked sites are:

Village of Sar: Village of Sanabis: Public forum: Village of Sitra Forum: Village of Maameer Forum: Online news site: Islamic Site: Islamic Audio: Public forum: Public forum: Village of Maameer Forum: Sitra Forum: Village of Malkiya Forum: ublic forum: Village of Karzakan Forum:

In addition to these sites, Google cached pages have been blocked.

The Committee to Protect Journalists[4] had previously written a letter to the king of the country in 2009 expressing great concern about the web crackdown led by Bahraini Authorities against independent and essential websites that discuss social, political and human rights issues. Yet, hundreds of websites are still blocked in Bahrain including the website of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

The recent blockage campaign comes in sync with the security and media campaign[5] ran by the Bahraini authorities. This is aimed at many political activists, religious figures and human rights defenders in an organized campaign designed to arrest and discredit them at the local and international level.

It also contradicts with Bahrain's position as a member of the Human Rights Council and with its claims to respect the freedom of opinion and expression. It contradicts Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Bahrain and states: "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Thus, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following from the Bahraini government:

• To lift the ban and blockage against all public affairs, cultural, social, legal, political and religious websites. • The withdrawal of all actions that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information. • To commit to its international obligations and respect all forms of freedom of expression as enshrined in international conventions and treaties. • To amend the Press Law No. 47 of 2002 and make it in line with international standards of human rights.

--- [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]The Arrest of the Human Rights Defender Dr. Abdul-Jalil Al- Singace Declares the Beginning of the Implementation of Threats