Censorship of Internet Sites

Reporters Without Borders Organisation has criticised the Ministry of Information and Culture's directive of 14 January 2009 to internet providers in the country which ordered the blocking of at least 25 political and commercial websites, stating that the Ministry was the only authority in the country permitted to unblock these sites. In this regard the organization stated that 'even if the blocking of websites is a common practise in Bahrain, the government's directive reveals its attempts to monopolize the power to censor the internet, and the truth is that this censorship has been extended to human rights websites as well.' The Organization called on the Ministry of Information' to reconsider its decision and unblock all websites'.

The Doha Centre for Media Freedom has also condemned the directive and considered this censorship procedure as going against the Bahraini government's moves towards a free and pluralist media, calling for an immediate lifting of bans on websites as well as annulling all rules that authorise the Ministry to impose its censorship on websites. The statement stressed the necessity of benefiting from the current parliamentary debate regarding the new press law in order to protect websites and all printed press in a manner which benefits a law-governed state.

Many political societies in Bahrain have also expressed their concern over the Ministry's directive especially as it has affected the website of an officially registered political society (The National Democratic Action Society). They fear that the Ministry's decision will undermine Bahrain's position in the international and human rights forums and will affect its human rights records related to freedom of expression and freedom of press.

The Ministry's response to these criticisms was to assert that the websites in question were publicizing provocative material and inciting hatred and sectarian violence.