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Bahrain: Bloggers united against decision to block websites

Bloggers in Bahrain are fuming at a decision by the country's Minister of Information to block access to scores of websites, as well as prevent access to proxy sites which enable surfers to get to sites in a roundabout manner.

Ammaro is defiant:

MINISTRY; HERE'S A SPECIAL MESSAGE FOR YOU. YOU CAN BLOCK A DOOR, YOU CAN BLOCK TWO, BUT YOU'LL NEVER BE ABLE TO CENSOR THE INTERNET, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT. THERE ARE A MILLION AND ONE WAYS TO GET AROUND YOUR BLOCKADES, AND YOU'LL NEVER KEEP UP WITH THEM.

Rayyash says:

إنتبتني الدهشة وأنا أشاهد القرار الصادر عن وزيرة الإعلام والقاضي بحجب المواقع على صفحة الانترنت، وسبب الدهشة ليست الشق الخاص بإغلاق المواقع الإباحية والتي أتفق واطالب بحجبها جميعاً ولكنه الشق الخاص بإغلاق أي مواقع آخر قد يصدر قرار بشأنه!!! والسبب هو أني دائماً لا أعول كثيراً على حسن الظن بالأنظمة العربية!!
I was surprised when I read the order issued by the Minister of Information to block websites on the Internet. The reason I was surprised was not because of the part related to banning pornographic sites which I agree with and call for censoring, but the part which says that any other site could also be blocked. The reason for this is that I don't believe that Arab governments have good intentions

Hussain Marhoon has a slightly different position:

في المبدأ، شخصياً فأنا ضد قرار الحجب في المطلق، بما في ذلك حجب المواقع الجنسية. وإذ لست أدري ما قيمة أن أكون “ضد”، مع ترجيح أن تكون لا شيء، أدري في المقابل عن موجة “التديين” التي صارت تطال بالتقسيط، نواحي حياتنا.
In principle, I am against the banning of websites altogether and that includes porn even though I don't know the value of being “against”. I know that there is a religious wave that is starting to have an impact on all areas of our life.

Jenan asks:

لم لا نحظى بحرية الكلمة و أيننا من ليبرالية التعبير يا هل ترى؟
Why don't we enjoy freedom of speech and where are we as regards liberalising expression?

Mohammed Marhoon also has a question:

ألسنا في عصر الإصلاح والشفافية؟!.. لا مبرر لفرض الوصاية على المرسل و الملتقي على حد سواء!
Aren't we in the era of reform and transparency? There is no excuse for imposing a guardian on the sender and recipient at the same time!

The Redbelt says:

Let me try to paint you a picture:
It is the 1980’s. No internet and no Satellite TV channels and nothing. The only communications we have with the outside world are videotapes, cassettes, books and magazines. In these simpler times, banning something would actually work. If the government says for a reason or another that a film for example is unacceptable and not wanted, the majority of the population, if not all, will not get to see it. Tapes will be easily found and confiscated. And then what? Banning media at that age was quite effective. But that was a long, long, LONG time ago. Just look at my brother, he was a mere idea in ’86 and was born in ’87. Today he is a 186 cm tall man, with a goatee, driving license and a college degree. Media has grown that much too.

Eyad wonders about the business logic:

Let’s not look at the internet as the super highway of information but look at it as a product, the people in their homes are paying a good amount of money and on a monthly bases just to access the internet and have a good time doing so, based on that fact [telecommunication companies] are heavily investing in networks and technology to get that connection to every home and business in the country; what if people based on giving these circumstances stop subscribing to internet services or resorting to other options like subscription sharing, how can these ISP’s justify their investment and effort to improve services when the Government is not helping at all.

Funaki says:

We have been blessed with a mind of our own that we can use to make decisions and distinguish between right and wrong. I don’t need anyone from outside coming and telling me what is right and what is wrong.

Yagoob makes a similar point – and has a request for the Minister:

People should be free to do whatever they want online, whether it’s safe or sinful is really none of the government’s business… We are not cattle that need to herded and shown the ‘righteous’ or better put ‘the government’s’ way. […] Your Excellency, blocking these websites will in the short and long term continue to undermine the freedoms given to the Bahraini people through the constitution and depriving useful websites from the residents of Bahrain for no reason whatsoever. Please reconsider and lift the ban off these websites and let us as a people grow more knowledgeable, educated and inspired…

Hussain Yousif says:

I would like to thank the government for reminding us that Bahrain is still a new version of a third word country where freedom is something to talk about but not to experience.

Silly Bahraini Girl is scathing:

This isn't yet another move to curtail my freedom of expression as I am free to say and write what I want, not that anyone will listen to me. What I am not free to do is surf the Internet as I please, because I am a child in the eyes of the authorities – a child who should be told what I am allowed and not allowed to read. And since no one is listening, I would like to thank the authorities for blocking access to all those websites and would like to request it to block access to the entire Internet as frankly, we have no use with it.

Sous, a Swedish woman living in Bahrain, is furious:

THIS IS INSANE! IMMENSLY INSANE!! I CAN’T BLOODY BREATHE! THIS IS INSANE!

Suad wonders:

الم يفكر المسئولون في النتائج العكسية لقراراتهم، للاهمية التي يسبغونها على بعض المواقع التي لا شأن لها ولا قيمة .. بالشهرة والشعبية التي ستحققها بسبب تهافت وتزايد المترددين عليها من باب ان كل ممنوع مرغوب؟
ماذا استفاد المواطن أو الدولة من قرارات الحجب غير تراجع سمعة البحرين ومسيرتها الاصلاحية وانعدام الشفافية وانتهاك حرية التعبير وإرجاعنا الي عصور التخلف والظلام؟
Don't officials think of the negative side effects of their decisions and on the importance they give to sites which have no value or standing in society. Don't they think that more people would want to access those sites now that everything which is illegal becomes more desirable? What did the citizen and the nation benefit from those bans except for the tarnishing of Bahrain's reputation and its reform progress, its lack of transparency, its aggression against freedom of expression and our return to the dark ages of backwardness?

Mohammed Zainal is in disbelief:

It is sad, seriously its not funny, my previous post was about how technology is evolving and how people are using it to develop new applications everyday, changing the media landscape, inspiring people with the web2.0 ++ tools and elements …
Is this what our “Age of Engage” ought to be?

MuJtAbA AlMoAmEn thinks that blocking sites is not the solution:

صحيح إن هناك منتديات بالفعل طائفية واستحقت الإغلاق لكن أقران هذه المنتديات من الطرف المقابل لم تغلق وهي تعمل ليل نهار شتماً وتحريضاً أيضاً .
ثم إنني لا أرى أية فائدة تقنياً من المنع فالوسائل كثيرة ، كما وإني مع عدم رضاي بالجو الطائفي المشحون المقبل للإنفجار إلا أنني أتقبل ما يحصل لأن مصدره شعب حقيقي مأزوم ومشحون ومتشرب للطائفية ، فما يحصل على المنتديات هو يعبر بدرجة كبيرة عن آراء تلك الفئة الغير قليلة في مجتمعنا ، ويبقى الحل سياسياً لا بيد وزيرة الإعلام ولا غيرها
It is true that there are in fact online forums which are sectarian and which deserved to be closed but I have to admit that online forums from the other end of the [political/religious] spectrum were not shut down and continue to work day and night hurling insults and insinuating trouble. Again, I see no technical benefit from the ban and while I don't agree with the explosive sectarian situation, I accept that what is happening is a result of real people in crisis and immersed in sectarianism. What is happening on the forums reflects, to a large extent, the opinions of a large sector of our society. And the political solution remains not in the hand of the Minister of Information or anyone else

Hayat questions how the decision has been made:

اعتقد بإن حجب المواقع الإلكترونية سلوك بدائي و متخلف و ينتهك حق حرية التعبير و الحصول على المعلومات .. فلا ديمقراطية دون حرية تعبير .. و لا توجد دولة دستورية ديمقراطية تحجب المواقع الإلكترونية … و لا يصح حجبها من خلال قرارات ادارية مزاجية يشترك فيها اعضاء من السلطة التنفيذية و السلطة القضائية و جهاز الأمن الوطني .. فلا يصح تداخل هذه السلطات معا .. فأين هو الفصل بين السلطات ؟
I believe that blocking those websites is primitive and backward and breaks the rights of freedom of expression and access to information. There is no democracy without freedom of expression…and no constitutional democracy which blocks websites…and it is not right to ban those sites through administrative orders which are arbitrary and which are taken by members of the executive authority, the judiciary and National Security Apparatus…It is not correct for these authorities to intertwine and work together and if they do…where is the separation between the different branches?

Khalid says:

اعتقد أن السلطة القضائية هي السلطة الوحيدة و الشرعية التي بيدها أن تقرر حجب المواقع الالكترونية من عدمه
I believe the that judiciary is the only legal authority which can make decisions on whether or not to ban any website

Qassim Ahmed has an idea:

السلطات البحرينية التعسفية تود اغلاق الإنترنت لتجعل الناس يبكون على ما أغلق فتفتح لهم مرة أخرى المواقع المليئة بالإباحية و العنف و تنزيل الأفلام و البروكسي و غيرها و يقول الناس حينها “لقد عادت الحرية مرة أخرى!”
…the Bahraini authorities want to block the Internet to make people cry over what was blocked, so that when they once again open up the sites for porn, violence and downloading movies and proxies as well as others…then people will say: “Freedom is now back again!”

In another post, Ammaro has decided he's figured out what's really going on:

Remember the Matrix? Remember how the whole world you lived in, which you believed was real, was in fact completely made up? Just a mirage? That's probably what the internet is in Bahrain. The internet was all a mirage created by the Bahrain government, to let you think that you're connecting to the outside world, when in reality we are kept very isolated from everything and everyone else. All the sites you've ever visited were set up by creative individuals in the Ministry of Information; every single one. There's a guy who writes the CNN website, and makes up the world news, another guy who writes the BBC website. It's sort of obvious that they're sitting next to each other when doing this; the news is almost exactly the same on both sites… […] We've been living a lie. The new website bans aren't really websites being ‘blocked’. It's actually a side effect from the Global Credit Crunch, where the Ministry has had to fire a large number of employees because of a shortage of funds, and couldn't sustain as many websites as it used to. Therefore the ban.

15 comments

  • Hey Ayesha! Thanks for having my words mentioned but you did not complete what I was trying to say:

    “… In the time that other political & human-rights websites would remain blocked; but people would be blinded with the ‘virtual’ ‘return of freedom'” ;-)

  • ولم استثنت بعض المواقع من قرار الحجب؟! رغم اتسامها بالطائفية؟

  • Qasim, my apologies, I assumed that was understood; thanks for making it clearer.

  • What would global voices do if it got banned?

  • sam

    anyone nkows when the ban is going to be lifted?? after elections? :)

  • The First factor is the high illiteracy rate amongst the maily dominated Muslim areas, with exception of few, perhaps Gulf and Turkey and Egypt). The lac of education plus inability to build a good Media centre like CNN,BBC–now ofcourse we have the Aljazeera- is the reason why the brighter side of ISLAM is not beijng reached to the outer world specially the Western Countries. Its imperativen to develop this sectors so that Christians known that Biblical events and Muslim events are similar with exception that we dont believe that Jesus is the son ofn God ; but a Prophet and that he is the sign that God can perform Miracle like the way miracles were shown to Moses.
    The next important thing is to develop the infrastructure of all the Muslim countries in agriculture,industrial ,trade and commerce– so that Muslim world is less dependent on Western Countries.
    Third the UNITY of the whole region comprising the Middle-East and others Muslim must be made– the Westerners utilize this weakness and encourage Muslim country to dominate over each other and so suppkly arms that they keep on fighting for domination.
    For those who are journalists here please try to write artyicles in different papers to raise the public conscious and raise these with their Goverment.
    Unless the sytems of the Muslims countries change– we will continue to be defeated by the Western countries.
    Lets pray for changen in the Muslim world

  • What elections??? :-P :-D

  • Thank you Ayesha. I hope more people will write and spread the news about this silly decision by Ministry of Information.

  • […] جريدة الايام – ٣١ يناير ٢٠٠٩ – رؤي Global Voices Online, 28 January 2009 […]

  • Ayesha

    Just want to thank, you’ve really done a great job.

    Jenanz

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