Authorities reinforce sweeping media ban, Internet censorship on controversial report
Date: 28 November 2007
Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Type(s) of violation(s): censored
(BCHR/IFEX) - A statement by the Higher Criminal Court on 27 November 2007 affirmed the permanence of the decision to stop publishing news or press comments on the "Al-Bandar report", although the prosecution of Salah Al-Bandar, the issuer of the report, was passed.
The decision to extend the "publication ban order" was explained by the judge in the following statement: "The ruling on the accused was made in his absence, and thus was susceptible to reversal and appeal by default, meaning it had not yet become final, and this justifies maintaining a ban on any publication about the report".
The ban on any media coverage of the "Al-Bandar report", originally issued in 2006, resulted in the prosecution of many journalists (for example, Mohamed Al-Sawad and Ahmed Al-Aradi of the "Alwaqt" newspaper) and some human rights activists (for example, Nabeel Rajab of BCHR).
Furthermore, the Bahraini Ministry of Information used this ban to activate articles 40 and 71 of the Press Decree Code of 2002, issuing an official order to prevent Internet access (from inside Bahrain) to many Bahraini and non-Bahraini websites that make reference to the report. This ban continues and applies to electronic forums, sites of local political and civic organizations, including religious, secular and ethnic groups based outside Bahrain. It also banned access to websites of human rights organizations BCHR and HAQ (inside Bahrain) as well as the Network of Human Rights Information (HRinfo), outside Bahrain.
The "Al-Bandar report" contains documents exposing a "secret" organization led and funded by known official organizations - mainly the Royal Court - and contains executive plans aiming at introducing sectarian sedition, rigging elections and undermining dissident groups, disenfranchising Shia populations, creating and funding phony non-governmental organizations, clamping down on and containing civic organizations, as well as managing a politically-motivated change of demography scheme by facilitating the immigration of thousands of people of different nationalities from around the region. The report also exposes the mobilization of the media team and capabilities of a newspaper created, funded and supported by the secret organization, and dedicated to achieving the above objectives and to misleading people about the report and its content, as well as about many public issues, activists and rights organizations.
BCHR is concerned about the ban on media coverage of the "Al-Bandar report", which only raises suspicions over the contents of the document. This is a blatant breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights acceded to by Bahrain. Furthermore, BCHR is concerned about the use of legislation to clamp down on freedom of expression and to limit space for action by human rights activists and their organizations.
Send appeals to Bahraini authorities:- calling for an end to the constraints on media access and freedom of expression, including the banning of various websites- denouncing the use of legislation, and the Press Decree Code in particular, to punish individuals and groups who attempt to express their views on public issues- condemning the alleged creation of a "secret organization" aimed at influencing media, activists and their organizations
His Hightness Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa, King of BahrainHis Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-KhalifaCabinet Prime MinisterFax: +973 1721 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: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Internet: http://www.bahrainrights.org/
**For further information on instances of prosecution over articles on the "Al-Bandar report", see IFEX alerts of 22 March and 28 February 2007**