Friday, January 02, 2009

Bahrain:Authorities prevent direct access to online forums

30 December 2008

Authorities prevent direct access to online forums

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

(BCHR/IFEX) - The and
websites are well known state-targeted public forums in Bahrain. Recently,
for more than the tenth time since their launch, the authorities have
prevented direct access to these public sites inside Bahrain. The
administration teams of the websites have had to resort to providing
different addresses for the public to access the sites.

Bahrainonline is one of the oldest and largest public forums in Bahrain, as
well as the earliest to be targeted by the local authorities. It is an
independent electronic forum and an easily accessible source of information
and news exchange in Bahrain, as well as a host for articles and reports
considered subversive by the authorities. During the first quarter of 2005,
it was banned and its administrators were incarcerated and prosecuted by
the authorities on charges of inciting hatred. After international and
local protests, they were later released on bail, but were banned from

The Shaheed-bh ("Marytr") forum is dedicated to martyrs and victims of
torture in Bahrain, and contains language considered to be offensive by the
local authorities. As such, its administrators have sought anonymity. In
addition to news and other information, the site contains archives of those
killed during protests in the nineties, as well as a record of those
detained and imprisoned in incidents that have taken place since December

Electronic sites, among them these leading forums, are used by opposition
and human rights groups, as well as social organisations, to publicise
their positions and advertise events. They are also considered an arena
through which public views are influenced.

There are over 535 electronic sites in Bahrain, on 25 different themes, of
which 111 are public forums, 60 are allocated to villages and towns and 59
belong to government organisations. There are about 200 blogs. Most of the
bloggers operate anonymously for fear of attacks by the authorities. In
2007, blogger Mahmood Den was taken to court by the municipalities'
minister on defamation charges.

BCHR expresses its concerns over the persistent measures undertaken by the
Bahraini authorities to block the flow of information by preventing access
to electronic sites and popular forums. The authorities' actions violate
Article 19 of the ICCPR ratified by Bahrain on 20 September 2006.


Send appeals to authorities:
- calling on them to lift the ban on all electronic sites carrying
information relating to public, cultural and human rights affairs in
Bahrain and elsewhere
- urging them to amend the Press Decree Code no. 47 of 2002 to bring it
into conformity with international human rights standards