The Week That Was in Bahrain

Bahrain's Internet scene witnessed what could be described this week as ‘no step forward and 10 steps backwards!’

On Monday, newspapers reported that the Kingdom would ban Google Earth.

‘(T)he Ministry of DISinformation has instructed the Bahrain Internet Exchange to block Google Earth. Possibly because through Google Earth, the whole world, let alone the Bahraini users, can zoom in and have a good look at palaces and islands which a normal Bahraini wouldn’t even dream of one day coming close to, let alone stepping foot in, and the glaring confiscation of virtually all but 3% of beaches of the islands,’ wroteMahmood Al Yousif.

The next day, a more relaxed Mahmood wondered whether the ministry's Big Brother tactics were stemming from a weak culture, which needed the State's moderation and control.

‘Some would say that certain kind of information must be censored due to the community sensibilities; however, I contend that if the only way to defend those sensibilities is by banning access to competing views, then those sensibilities are by definition too weak to withstand the challenge and should be discarded. Hence, the recent decision by the Ministry of Information to block some sites it purports contain material “alien to our culture” – which has become its trademarked cry for imposing its ill-conceived Big Brotherly restrictions – then the question is: is our culture and moral fiber so weak that they cannot withstand the challenge posed by these websites and the ideas contained within them?’ he argues.

Joining the crusade to stop Internet censorship, Silly Bahraini Girl, charted the differences between Bahrain and the UAE, which are clear for all to see, and their total agreement on the issue.

‘Everyone, I mean most of us, know that the UAE and Bahrain are two different places… until it comes to censorship and intimidating people.. looking down on their citizens and residents and treating them like children by banning them from accessing internet sites. We've all heard about what is happening in the UAE. Bahrain, probably jealous of its neighbour's draconian Internet just following in its footsteps now. You see.. It is always the case of Monkey Sees.. Monkey Does!’ she wrote.

Even Boilerman comes to the rescue.

“What great minds might be at work here? Is our country to be relegated to the backwater of information freedom and connectivity? The Censorship State is far from over…What is there to hide in Bahrain? The lack of public beaches? The destruction of the seafront when we have vacant land on the island in abundance? The underdeveloped villages and shoddy housing compared to the new residential super developments? Etcetera! Here's news for the government: WE KNOW ABOUT ALL OF THAT ALREADY. BLOCKING GOOGLE EARTH WILL NOT MAKE US FORGET,” he writes.

Alas! The issue is still hanging and no one knows for certain whether the site has been banned, is being banned or will be banned.

Whatever is the case, most people in Bahrain now know what Google Earth is and more people abroad know that Bahrain is keen on censoring the Internet!

“Whether Bahrain cites security or moral reasons for blocking Internet sites, reality shows that the more you try to hide something, the more desirable it becomes.

I don't really know how many people knew about Google Earth in Bahrain before someone decided to clamp down on it, but I know for a fact that everyone in the country is now intrigued to see what all the fuss is all about.

I am also sure that my country's name is again becoming linked to news about the suppression of information and Internet censorship, which anyone who could switch on a computer and access the Internet could tell you is largely impossible nowadays!” wrote columnist Amira Al Hussaini in Bahraini daily the Gulf Daily News.

Emoodz reflects a similar sentiment.

“The beauty of the internet is that it is a “non-specialized resource” and hence there is no official dressed in a green uniform to tell me how to use it, what to put out there, choose which sites to explore, what topics I can and can’t look up, or anything at all. But, Bahraini officials are now aspiring to move the internet to a safety level close to that of a Barney’s Episode, so bless them god!

The entire world is not child safe, and no censorship will ever change that, two things you can’t really limit people, the imagination.. And the world wide web..

Sadly, It will take my country another 10 years to understand that,” he writes.

Away from Internet censorship and Google Earth and back to more earthly matters, Bahrain bloggers continued for the fourth week in a row, to busy themselves with the war in the Middle East.

Haitham Sabbah, as usual, keeps us abreast with all the latest from the front (???) — If there ever was one!

Despite the passage of a UN resolution, the end of the carnage is far from over, observe Bahrain bloggers.

“Are we there yet?”
asks Mahmood.

“Doesn’t look like it, as Israel continues its hostile actions.

We hope though that they, Hizballah and the Lebanese will stop and respect 1701,” he writes.

Ashish Gorde also comments on the resolution, saying:

“The UN Resolution that they have jointly authored may not be THE answer, but it just could be part of the solution. However, I still have a problem with it because it's just US and France coming up with the draft, and the Security Council giving its unanimous okay. That's all fine, but it still makes one ask: why can't the warring parties be involved in this draft resolution? Isn't it possible that the resolution will lack teeth because neither Israel nor the Hizbollah are involved in it?”

He doesn't end his post on a positive note though.

“More killings on the way, more buildings destroyed, more revenge seeking mob on a rampage… weather forecast looks rather grim,” he writes.

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