12 MARCH 2012

Excerpts from the full report

Bahrain and Belarus move from “under surveillance” to “Enemies”. They combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda.

Bahrain offers an example of an effective news blackout based on a remarkable array of repressive measures, technical, judicial and physical censorship methods: keeping the international media away, harassing human rights activists, arresting bloggers and netizens (one of whom died in detention), smearing and prosecuting free speech activists, and disrupting communications, especially during the major demonstrations.

The security services no longer interrogate and torture a prisoner for the names of his accomplices. Now they want his Facebook, Skype and Vkontakte passwords. It is the same in Bahrain, Turkmenistan or Syria.

Bahrain is spending millions to polish its image abroad and give the impression that the country has returned to normal. This has been capped by the announcement that the 2012 Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, cancelled last year, will go ahead in April.

2011 was the deadliest year for netizens, its violence unmatched in the time that dissidents and human rights campaigners have been making widespread use of the Web.

On 9 April 2011, the netizen Zakariya Rashid Hassan died in custody in Bahrain, a week after he was arrested and charged with inciting hatred, disseminating false news, promoting sectarianism and calling for the overthrow of the government on online forums.

Many Syrian and Bahraini netizens have been tortured in custody. Iranian authorities in particular favour extracting confessions from dissidents then broadcasting them on television.

In Bahrain, the noted dissident Nabeel Rajab is regularly smeared in the media as well as being subjected to physically assault.

Read full report on Bahrain