Bahrain

Motoon II: Another update

First the good news. Aleksandr Sdvizhkov, the editor in Belarus who was jailed for publishing the Muhammed cartoons back in 2006 has been released.

More than a 1,000 (mainly small and local) Danish websites were hacked by some individual calling himself United Arab Hackers and reportedly from Saudi Arabia. The websites of international companies based in Denmark, such as Lurpak and Carlsberg, were not affected.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is threatening to expel Danish organizations, snub its officials and boycott the countrys products in reaction to the republished cartoons. Denmarks foreign aid minister is considering whether this might have consequences for Danish aid (130.2 million kroner last year) to the African country.

Bahrainis took to the streets and the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe jumped on the bandwagon.

With thanks to Media Watch Watch (twice) and The Comics Reporter.

Updated

The Vatican and the Al-Azhar university in Cairo have issued a joint statement condeming (via) the republication of the cartoon but studiously avoiding any mention of the foiled murder plot against the 72-year-old cartoonist which prompted the republications.

Blocked in Bahrain

Several Arab bloggers are reporting that Mahmood’s Den, a popular and prominent Bahraini/Arab blog has been blocked with immediate effect on the orders of the Bahraini Ministry of Information.

Seven sites in total have been blocked by the order, although only Mahmood’s blog a Bahraini. Other web sites vary between news, religious and entertainment web sites. The full list of banned blogs is:

According to Sabbah, the memo refers to press law no. 47, which was passed in 2002 and added further restrictions on freedom of expression including the prohibition of “defamation of the person of the king and royal family members.”

In the past, authorities have blocked access to a number of political sites, including those of opposition groups, because the officials claim that these sites incite “sectarianism” and contain “offensive content.” The criteria for making such determinations, though, are not clear. In some cases, the Ministry of Information claimed it blocked only sites that seek to “create tension between people and to provoke resentful sectarianism.”

In April 2005, the Bahrain Information Ministry ruled that any web site or blog that included any information on Bahrain were obliged to register with the Ministry and to assume responsibility for all materials published online.

Bahraini bloggers charged with allowing free speech

The Guardian reports that three Bahraini bloggers are facing criminal charges, and up to ten years imprisonment, for running a web forum that allows free political debate.

Ali Abdulemam, who founded Bahrains first website, BahrainOnline.org, in 1999, was arrested along with the sites two other moderators.

Although the state telecoms monopoly has been trying to block it since 2002, Bahrain Online is the countrys most popular website. It has has 26,000 registered users.

Many of Bahrain Onlines 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.

The controls the Bahrani government is seeking include demanding that bloggers register with the ministry of information and a proposed bill to regulate the use of Bluetooth technology on mobile phones.