A BAHRAINI blogger has spearheaded the launch of a petition against Internet censorship following a ministerial order to block pornographic and unauthorised websites.
A total of 150 people from Bahrain and other countries have signed the on-line petition since it was initiated last Thursday and more are adding to it every hour, said its creator Eyad Ebrahim.
Mr Ebrahim said he was hoping to collect as many as 5,000 signatures before sending the petition to the Culture and Information Ministry, along with recommendations from bloggers.
“Bahrain is a democracy and we would like to be treated in a democratic way- we are adults and should be treated accordingly,” he told the GDN.
“Any censorship needed should be done in the household.
“Adults should have the freedom to decide which websites they want to censor – the government is trying to play God.”
Mr Ebrahim said a better option than censoring would be to bring those handling the offending website to court and leave it for the judge to decide on the website’s fate.
“It (this censorship) damages Bahrain’s reputation as a liberal country,” he said.
“It would be far better to redirect this energy or to confront it with legal tools rather than blocking it outright.”
The Culture and Information Ministry issued a decree on January 14 informing all telecommunications companies and Internet service providers to prevent access to pornographic and unauthorised websites banned by the ministry, which included some political and on-line discussion forums.
However, Mr Ebrahim said he wanted to know what criteria the ministry had used to decide which websites to block, because while some harmless websites had been blocked, offensive ones were still accessible.
For example, while many political websites had been blocked, others that promoted sectarian hatred were still accessible.
He said if any sites had to be blocked it should have been websites that promoted hatred of any type because they went against the Bahrain Code of Ethics that was launched by bloggers last year.
Mr Ebrahim also questioned the move to ban pornographic sites while Bahrain still had an alleged prostitution industry.
“We see political, economic and social implications to this (Internet censorship),” he said.
“Socially, when it is illegal to access a particular content over the Internet, people will get around it and will be criminalised for this.
“Economically, when it is a law, this will increase the cost on service providers, who will then shift the cost to the clients.
Mr Ebrahim said the block on websites conflicted with Bahraini law, its constitution and international agreements.
“The ministerial order conflicts with other parts in the Bahraini law and constitution,” said Mr Ebrahim.
Furthermore, he said the block on websites violated Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Bahrain signed on September 20, 2006.
Article 19 states:
l Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
l Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
l The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph two of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities.
It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others.
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.
To sign the petition against Internet censorship visit: www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-internet-censorship-in-bahrain.html.