Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bahraini Blogger Charged with Libel

The Persian Gulf Island city-state of Bahrain is an oasis of relative liberalism amidst the dictatorships and autocracies of the Middle East. Even there, however, free expression has its limits. In addition to the efforts of Islamists, Bahrain's government continues to circumscribe free speech.

Last week, a Bahraini blogger named Mahmood Al Yousif went on trial for libel, due to critical comments he posted about a minister in the Bahraini government. The case was adjourned until May 8th. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Yousif discussed the circumstances surrounding his trial:

"Bahrain is a very politicized society, maybe the most in the Gulf," Yousif told the Post via e-mail. "Indications over the last few months suggest that there is a concerted effort by the government to stifle freedoms of expression, even though its own constitution defends them."

He said 13 cases had been brought against Bahraini journalists in the past two years, and that the charges against him indicated that the government had now turned its attention to the Internet.

"Now that the government has cowed print and other media outlets, they are trying the same technique to silence criticism on the Internet," Yousif said. "However, they fail to realize that there is no 'big red switch' which can be pressed to 'stop the presses' of the Internet."

"They can take me to court," he said, "they can continue to harass us, but for every one they do imprison or harass, tens of others naturally appear!"


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