Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Authorities block links posted on BCHR Facebook page

IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community

17 March 2009

Authorities block links posted on BCHR Facebook page

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

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is alarmed by thewidening scope of a censorship and internet blocking campaign, led by MaiAl-Khalifa, Minister of Information and member of the ruling family,targeting dissident voices about Bahrain. This campaign has extended tosocial networking sites such as Facebook, blocking any discussions theauthorities consider subversive.
BCHR has conducted some research on the extent of this battle againstfreedom of expression inside Facebook to report on the following recentincidents of censorship of Facebook entries. BCHR believes that thesesamples do not comprise an exhaustive list:
- "Discrimination and sectarian oppression in Bahrain, a SystematicReality" a report, in English, by Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR,displayed on PressTV (http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=86562告onid=3510303 ). This report isposted on the BCHR Facebook page
- A BCHR alert posted on IFEX, which appears on the BCHR Facebook page, onthe prosecution of journalist Lamees Dhaif, in both English and Arabic. (http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101406 )
- "A Window Overlooking Bahrain," a report in Arabic by Kawther Ali,"Aljazeeratalk" reporter, covering some aspect of recent popular protestsand human rights violations in Bahrain (http://www.aljazeeratalk.net/portal/content/view/4152/56 )
- Amnesty International's recent report on human rights defenders coveringMiddle East and North Africa, posted on the BCHR Facebook page (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/as...0012009ara.pdf ). Brief coverage ofthis report was also posted on the BBC Arabic site
- An electronic forum by the University of Bahrain students, posted on theBCHR Facebook page, managed by a group of students covering issues ofacademic and public concern. An electronic vote is displayed on its mainpage ( http://www.uobvoice.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=747 )
- A "Washington Post" piece on a "Democracy Appeal", a petition addressedto US President Obama by 163 American and overseas politicians, humanrights defenders, academics, and others, calling for the U.S.'s commitmentto genuine democratization and support of human rights in the Muslim worldand a promise to cease supporting autocrats and dictators in this part ofthe world. This article and the letter with signatories, was posted onFacebook by activist AJ Alsingace, Head of the Human Rights Unit in the HAQMovement of Civil Liberties and Democracy
- A link to page 4 of the 14 February issue of "Alwasat" newspaper, showingdifferent portraits of human rights violations, with an English comment:"UTTERLY untrue. Bahrain is a safe haven. People enjoy freedom ofexpression, assembly, religious practice, etc. Children, youth, women andseniors are enjoying it!" This remark and link was posted on BCHR'sFacebook page by the activist AJ Alsingace. (http://www.alwasatnews.com/pdf/default.asp?issue_number=2381&p=1 )
- Facebook provides a free SMS service for its members. The authoritiesblocked the downloading of the application software from the site, which isrequired for the Facebook chat service.
What is interesting is that these items and comments are accessible outsideof Facebook. BCHR believes that the drive behind the eagerness of theBahraini Authorities to block these and similar dissident entries onFacebook is the realization that this social site has extensiveaccessibility and distribution.
Nabeel Rajab, president of BCHR, responded to this campaign:"We considerthis campaign to be a war against all forms of expression". He added: "Thiswar has widened to include even social and worldwide renowned sites likeFacebook. We are dismayed that this war is spearheaded by Mai Al-Khalifa, alady modeled as liberal and presented with many medals in recognition ofher support to culture and liberalism". Rajab concluded: "We are wary ofthese accolades. Mai Al-Khalifa's actions, with regards to restrictingfreedom of expression, should be the basis for the retractions of thoseaccolades.


Send appeals to the Bahraini Authorities asking them to:
- lift the ban and blockage of BCHR's Facebook entries and respect thefreedom of expression of BCHR's Facebook group members
- put an end to the campaign against all forms of freedom of expression andlift the ban on dissident voices on the web
- repeal all administrative resolutions targeting web accessibility andrestricting freedom of expression, and constrain the Minister ofInformation's involvement in media censorship
- amend the Press Code of 2002, ensuring its conformity to internationalconventions


His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-KhalifaKing of Bahrain
Khalifa bin Salman Al-KhalifaCabinet Prime MinisterFax: +97 3 1 721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.