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ALERT - BAHRAIN

15 October 2007

Internet censorship continues as authorities block website of popular civic organization

SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama

(BCHR/IFEX) - BCHR has learned that the Bahraini authorities have taken measures to block access by people in Bahrain to the website of the HAQ movement ( http://www.haaq.org ).

The HAQ Movement for Liberties and Democracy is a popular civic organization, established in November 2005, calling for respect for rights and democratization in Bahrain. HAQ and other popular organisations are not registered under the national Civic Organizations Law number 21 of 1989 and the Political Societies Law number 26 of 2005. These laws are believed to have been legislated to impose a legal leash on civic organizations, a suspicion substantiated by the day-to-day practices of the authorities. They are also are considered to be in violation of well-known international human rights covenants and charters. Nonetheless, because HAQ, like many other popular organizations, is not registered under these laws, the authorities consider it to be illegal, and therefore a target for censorship and repression.

Such acts of Internet censorship by the Bahraini authorities are common. Earlier in 2007, BCHR was aware of over 26 blocked websites, local and international. These blockages were mainly in reaction to online reporting about political scandals in Bahrain, especially what was locally dubbed the "Bandergate report" about the misappropriation of public lands, administrative and financial corruption, discrimination and favoritism.

Blocked sites included:

1. Six forums belonging to some villages in Bahrain ( http://www.juffair.com/vb , http://www.tubli.net , http://www.karzakan.com , http://alduraz.net/xforum , http://www.eskanaali.com , http://www.shahrakkan.org ); 2. Four general forums ( http://www.bahrainonline.org , http://www.montadayat.org , http://www.ahraralbahrain.com , http://www.wattani.net ); 3. Two sites of civic organizations and popular committees ( http://www.bhteachers.org/phpBB2/ , http://www.shaheedbh.com ); 4. The sites of two political organisations and movements ( http://www.vob.org and http://www.aldemokrati.org ); 5. The sites of two human rights organizations ( http://www.bahrainrights.org , http://www.hrinfo.net ); 6. The sites of two religious groups (Copts, Arab Christians: http://www.freecopts.net , http://www.arabchurch.com ); 7. One Kurdish nationalist sites ( http://www.kurdtimes.com ); 8. One secular site ( http://www.ladeeni.net ); 9. Two electronic newspapers ( http://www.alsaheefa.net , http://www.rezgar.net ); 10. Two news and advertising sites ( http://www.Albawaba.com , http://www.annaqed.com ); 11. One humour site ( http://www.bahraintimes.org); 12. One blog ( http://www.Mahood.tv ).

Censorship of these sites was made on the basis of the notorious Press Decree Code No. 47 of 2002. Over 14 Bahraini journalists have been interrogated, prosecuted, or taken to trial based on this law.

These actions of the Bahraini authorities violate the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the Bahraini authorities: - requesting they respect human rights, and the right to freedom of expression in particular - calling upon them to stop blocking websites - asking them to use only legal means, in compliance with the international charters and covenants, when dealing with civil organizations - urging them to amend Press Decree Code No. 47 so that it conforms to international human rights standards

APPEALS TO:

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain Mr. Jehad Bu-Kamal, Minister of Information Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1 721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President, BCHR, Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org, info@bahrainrights.org, Internet: http://www.bahrainrights.org

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of BCHR. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit BCHR. _______________________________________________________________ DISTRIBUTED BY THE INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXCHANGE (IFEX) CLEARING HOUSE 555 Richmond St. West, # 1101, PO Box 407 Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 3B1 tel: +1 416 515 9622 fax: +1 416 515 7879 alerts e-mail: alerts@ifex.org general e-mail: ifex@ifex.org Internet site: http://www.ifex.org/