Website Blockings in Bahrain

A new government crackdown by Bahrain’s Ministry of Information has led to the blocking of over 60 websites ranging from Google Translate to social, political, religious, and human rights sites, according to the Bahrain Human Rights Society and Global Voices Online, a network dedicated to defending free speech worldwide.

The Ministry of Information’s January 14th missive ordered ISPs to block access to certain political and commercial websites, stating as well that only the Ministry itself could reverse the decision to block access to a website. Proxy websites (those that enable users to step around censorship) have also been blocked since the directive was issued.

The following message appears when users try to access a blocked website: “Site Blocked: This website has been blocked by the order of the Ministry of Culture and Information based on Article 19 of decree Law No. 47, 2002 regarding the organisation of the press, printing and publishing in the Kingdom of Bahrain, due to the publication of prohibited content on the aforementioned site.”

Law No. 47 of 2002 enables the government to shut down a publication or website deemed to have attacked the government, the official state religion, public decency, or other religions in a matter likely to disturb the peace. According to Reporters without Borders, officials can order such closures without referring to a court first.

A new media law currently before parliament would protect Internet sites and publications from summary closure by the government without court hearing.