Prominent Bahraini Blogger and Online Activist Under Arrest
In a new escalation by Authority after launching the security crackdown to arrest activists
An archived photo of Ali Abdulemam taken in his first arrest
06 September 2010
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its grave concern at the continued escalation and vicious attack on freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain which synchronizes with a wave of arrests of activists and defenders of human rights, and the attack on public freedoms and the confiscation of the right of expression. This was represented recently in the arrest of Ali Abdulemam, a Bahraini blogger and a prominent online activist on "Global Voices" networks and the owner of the most popular online forum in Bahrain "Bahrain Online" bahrainonline.org. He was arrested on the evening of Saturday, September 4th, 2010, after being summoned for investigation by the National Security Apparatus (NSA), which then has charged him with "broadcasting false news, wrong and tendentious about the current situation in Bahrain." This was followed by the shutdown of the site in the afternoon of Sunday, September 5th, 2010, in what may be a result of the pressures suffered by Abdul-Imam to disclose the passwords of the website to the authority.
Few hours before his arrest, Abdalimam (in his thirties, married and father of three children) had told friends on e-mail and via his page on Facebook that he had received a call to appear before the National Security Apparatus. Nevertheless, the Authority has claimed later that they had arrested him while he was trying to flee to a Gulf state, which increases concern about his fate, especially in light of the recent news notions of ill-treatment of detained political and human rights activists and subjecting them to severe torture.
It is worth noting that the popular online forum “Bahrain Online” has excelled in recent years, and even more in last days since the start of the security crackdown, in publishing news of the arrests, the ongoing rights violations in the country, its photo coverage rapid reports of protests and peaceful movement for rights, and publication of articles and data with oppositional views to the Authority, In addition to statements of human rights organizations, including the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Yet this forum is blocked in Bahrain since its creation in 1998, but the surfers routinely pass blockage through the use of proxy or alternative links. Thus, “Bahrain Online” was one of the most important sites, which continued to report the news despite the ferocity of the crackdown, which caused the blocking and shutting down of dozens of Websites recently. It seems that the authority has become fed up with its continuing failure to stop the site, and had no other option but to arrest the owner and force him to hand over control of the website, which led to its closure later.
This is not the first arrest of blogger Abdulimam, as it was preceded by the arrest in February 2005 with another 2 moderators of the “Bahrain Online” website, after the publication of critical reports to government policies by some of the site users. Ali and the moderators have been charged with inciting hatred against the regime, and were detained for more than a month before being released without dropping their charges.
This time the arrest of Abdalimam comes amidst a fierce security crackdown aimed to eliminate the freedom of opinion and expression in Bahrain and suppress all opposition voices and remove the means to publish their opinions or to transfer information and news about this campaign. Dozens of activists and human rights defenders have been arrested since August 13. The campaign began with arresting human rights defender, blogger and academic, Dr. Abduljalil Alsingace.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights perceive that the arrest of blogger Abdalimam and the targeting of activists and bloggers on the Internet and the closure of websites, come to grip all independent means of expression and to create a complete blackout on the means of dissemination of information. The Centre regrets that the authority targets individuals who express views in civilized ways while turning a blind eye to the websites that fuel sectarian animosity between citizens, and abuse them.
This organized crackdown campaign against online activists and websites 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 also 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, based on the above information, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands that the Government of Bahrain:
1. Immediately release the blogger Abdalimam as well as all detainees, including the activists and human rights defenders because they have been arrested based on reasons related to them practicing their fundamental rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembling which are guaranteed to them by international laws. 2. Immediately stop the systematic torture by the National Security Apparatus, and to dissolve it; presenting its officials to a fair trial, and to redress the victims from its violations; 3. Put an immediate stop to the implementation of the Anti-Terrorist Law which allows arbitrary detention, torture, and unjust trials; all of which have been openly condemned by the UN and international organizations; 4. To stop the media campaign that is inciting hatred and pushing the country towards sectarian clashes; 5. To lift the ban and blockage against all online forums, cultural and religious websites that have been blocked before and after the latest security crackdown. 6. The withdrawal of all actions that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information. To start a serious and real political reform to resolve all the outstanding human rights cases related to civil and political rights along with their the economical, social and cultural rights.