Bahraini bloggers fall foul of government
Jane Kinninmont in Manama
Wednesday May 25, 2005
Three Bahraini bloggers are facing criminal charges, including defaming the king, for running a web forum that allows free political debate.
Ali Abdulemam, who founded Bahrain's first website, BahrainOnline.org, in 1999, was arrested along with the site's two other moderators.
Although the state telecoms' monopoly has been trying to block it since 2002, Bahrain Online is the country's most popular website. It has has 26,000 registered users.
The Gulf state's technologically literate youth have become adept at accessing the site (which is hosted in the US) through proxy addresses.
Many of Bahrain Online's contributors attack what they see as government repression, corruption and religious discrimination.
The three were arrested ear lier this year, and detained on five charges including "inciting hatred against the government".
They were later released, but still face charges.
Bahrain is witnessing unprecedented calls for more democracy. But the authorities want more control over new media.
This month, the government said bloggers had to register with the ministry of information - and has even proposed a bill to regulate the use of Bluetooth technology on mobile phones.
The lawyer for the three accused said the charges against them were based on articles they did not write, something a government source also confirmed.
Mr Abdulemam said: "I hadn't even seen the postings they [the authorities] showed me but I could face up to 10 years in prison just for publishing a website."