Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

Bahrain’s government and bloggers

Posted in Politics by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on August 21, 2005

Spirit of America recently prepared a “worst five” list that aims to target the countries with the worst “regime that was hostile to free expression and which had an active blogging community”:

Peninsular Arabia (Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain)

The third item on the list is “Peninsular Arabia” – it seems silly that they have lumped Bahrain with Saudi Arabia and Syria. The latter is not part of the peninsula and the other countries that are part are not included on the list. And however bad Bahrain is it is not as bad as Saudi Arabia or Syria. Still, anything that names and shames the Bahraini government’s recent actions against bloggers is fine by me.

Incidentally Spirit of America seems shifty to me – their website include the kind of vague statements that no one can disagree with:

Spirit of America helps American military and civilian personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as people who call to Americans for help in their struggle for freedom and democracy.

Then we come to what is perhaps their real point, i.e. a little propaganda:

We contributed equipment to Iraqi-owned television stations to establish a better alternative to Al Jazeera.

Or as it’s now called, “perception management“. Still their blog entry does (mis)quote the Open Net Initiative’s report about Bahrain’s internet censorship. This is a topic dear to my heart as back in 2003 I found out that my own site (yes, the one you are reading now) was being blocked in Bahrain. It is interesting to read the details in the report and wonderful to know that someone is studying this area:

Bahrain filters a very small number of Internet sites to prevent its citizens from accessing them. The OpenNet Initiative’s (ONI) testing of more than 6,000 targeted sites revealed only eight sites blocked from those seeking access from within Bahrain. Three of the blocked sites were pornographic. The other filtered sites covered political and religious topics. When a site is blocked in Bahrain, the person seeking to access it is served one of two “block pages” – Web pages with text indicating that the requested content cannot be accessed. This modest filtering regime is supported by both a legal context and a technical infrastructure. The legal context includes extensive potential controls of media, telecommunications, and the Internet, while the technical infrastructure includes a single primary Internet Service Provider (ISP) and a state-mandated Internet exchange point (IXP); the combination of both the legal context and the technical infrastructure makes filtering relatively easy to implement.

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