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Bahrain continues to stifle dissent and coverage

Released: Sheikh Mohammed Habib Muqdad, one of the freed political detainees, arrives amongst thousands of supporters at Pearl Square in Manama February 23, 2011. Bahrain has freed 23 people accused of trying to topple the island's Sunni Muslim monarchy, along with more than 200 other mostly Shi'ite prisoners detained in recent months.

The Bahraini security forces had previously been restrained in the way they obstructed journalists but snipers in a helicopter fired at New York Times reporter Michael Slackman and cameraman Sean Patrick Farrell as they were filming the violence in Manama’s Pearl Square on February 18.

The US network security company Arbor Networks reports a 20 per cent decrease in Internet traffic in and out of Bahrain in recent days, which suggests that the authorities are filtering online content in response to the unrest. Connection speeds have also slowed right down.

Late Tuesday evening, the authorities nonetheless released 23 human rights and opposition activists who had been on trial since October 28. Two others who were tried in absentia were granted amnesty. They included Ali Abdulemam and Abdeljalil Al-Singace, two bloggers who were arrested on September 4. RSF welcomed their release while continuing to deplore the arbitrary way they were arrested and detained.

They were mistreated and tortured, while all the fundamental rights enshrined in international treaties signed and ratified by Bahrain were repeatedly flouted during the trial. Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights told CNN that, in all, about 100 political prisoners had been freed but another 400 or so were still held.

Spokesman and Director of the Human Rights Bureau of the Haq Movement for Civil Liberties and Democracy, Al-Singace was previously arrested in 2009 for allegedly trying to destabilise the government because he used his blog (http://alsingace.katib.org) to denounce the deplorable state of civil liberties and discrimination against Bahrain’s Shiite population.

Abdulemam, a very active blogger and regarded as one Bahrain’s Internet pioneers, was accused of disseminating false information on the pro-democracy forum BahrainOnline.org, a website that gets 100,000 visitors a day although access is blocked within Bahrain. A contributor to the international bloggers network Global Voices, he has taken part in many international conferences at which he has denounced human rights violations in Bahrain. He was previously arrested in 2005 for criticising the government on his blog.

Date posted: February 23, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 140