Blocking a Facebook Group that Calls People to go Down the Streets and Demonstrate against the Authority’s Policy

6 February 2011

In a new violation of freedom of opinion and expression and publishing, and in a step that reflects a state of confusion, apprehension and anticipation – the Bahraini Authorities block an electronic group on the social network Facebook[1] which calls upon people to go out and protest against the policy of the Authority on February 14th, similarly to what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. Two days after it was launched on Facebook, the Information Affairs Authority blocked the page of a group called – The Revolution of 14th February in Bahrain – and which is a group on Facebook that urges citizens to go down to the streets and protest against the policy approached by the Authority in the political naturalization, sectarian discrimination, and continuous arbitrary arrests of those opposing the Authority’s policy and in order to demand social justice. At a time where the people standing behind this call are not known, it has spread widely among the youth in the Bahraini areas and villages that suffer marginalization and discrimination. That group selected the coming 14th February to be the start of those protests, and which coincides with the tenth anniversary of the National Action Charter.

This is not the first time that the authority blocks certain web pages from the social networks, as it had previously blocked hundreds of websites, web pages, blogs and electronic forums. Many Bahraini bloggers and internet active individuals have to work behind pseudonyms in the local discussion forums. The Authority lately arrested some bloggers and electronic activists in an attempt to curb the wave of the use of technology in exposing the violations of the government, as it arrested the prominent Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam, as well as the academic blogger Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace and accused them of terrorism. It also prosecuted the electronic activist Mohammed Al-Rashid due to topics he published on electronic forums.

While the Authority claims that it only uses censorship to blog pornographic websites and those that incite violence and raise sectarian tension, reality proves that the censorship tools are primarily targeted at suppressing the voices and opinions that oppose and defy its policy or those which reveal its transgressions and violations of human rights. The websites of both the BCHR and the Arab Network for Human Rights still remain blocked for years.

The BCHR believes that amidst the rapid development of technology it has become difficult for governments to entirely block all the electronic websites, it however by its insistence on the blocking policy strengthens its position in the black lists of authoritarian and undemocratic countries, and the organization of Reporters without Borders had already listed Bahrain among the group (under monitoring) in its report on the enemies of the Internet.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the government of Bahrain the following:

• Lift the ban from all the public, discussion, cultural, social, human rights, political and religious websites; • Annul all the procedures that could restrict freedom of opinion and expression or that prevents that transmission of information; • Meet its international commitments and respect all forms of freedom of expression as is stated in the international charters and covenants; • Amend Press law 47 of 2002 in accordance with the international standards of human rights

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[1]14th Feb Anger Day - Facebook Group