Website clamp a step backwards
Vol XXVIII NO. 37 Tuesday 26th April 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
It is disturbing news that Bahrain has decided to clamp down on websites, just as the country celebrates World Book Day.
Yesterday's stern warning to all webmasters to either register their sites or face legal action, has sent shockwaves down my spine.
To camouflage a law bent on infringing on the rights of people to express their opinion with clichés like protecting public freedom and safeguarding the rights stipulated in the 2002 reforms initiated by His Majesty King Hamad, is worrying.
It makes me and many others wonder what type of democracy we want to tell the rest of the civili-sed world we have.
Do we have a real democracy, or a tailor-made one under which people can do, say or think anything they want, as long as it falls in with the official line?
Instead of taking the opportunity of World Book Day to encourage people to read and write, express themselves and expand their horizons, the Information Ministry has now appointed itself as custodian of the worldwide web (www) and has created new restrictions to a service which provides people with information and entertainment at the click of a button.
The amusing question is how does the ministry think it can monitor and control all that appears on Bahraini or Bahraini-related websites, which number anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 and which can double in size overnight?
In the cyber world, which acknowledges no boundaries, censorship or secret police, where the word pours out from the heart and goes directly to the people, how does Bahrain expect to enforce this law, particularly on websites hosted by domains in other countries ?
What signals are the authorities sending to the rest of the world about democracy and freedom of expression and human rights in this country?
How will it punish people who refuse to register their on-line diaries, especially if they are personal or frivolous, such as details on their everyday lives, or the antics of their pets?
Why is Bahrain stubbornly disrespecting its citizens and refusing them space to breathe and develop and learn to respect themselves and others in the process?
Democracy is not born overnight.
It is a long learning process and trial and error are acceptable as long as mutual respect and the will to make things work for the benefit of all are there.
Is freedom of expression just a sound bite under our own version of Bahraini democracy?