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Internet censorship continues as authorities block website of popular civic organization

(BCHR/IFEX) - BCHR has learned that the Bahraini authorities have taken measures to block access by people in Bahrain to the website of the HAQ movement ( ).

The HAQ Movement for Liberties and Democracy is a popular civic organization, established in November 2005, calling for respect for rights and democratization in Bahrain. HAQ and other popular organisations are not registered under the national Civic Organizations Law number 21 of 1989 and the Political Societies Law number 26 of 2005. These laws are believed to have been legislated to impose a legal leash on civic organizations, a suspicion substantiated by the day-to-day practices of the authorities. They are also are considered to be in violation of well known international human rights covenants and charters. Nonetheless, because HAQ, like many other popular organizations, is not registered under these laws, the authorities consider it to be illegal, and therefore a target for censorship and repression.

Such acts of Internet censorship by the Bahraini authorities are common. Earlier in 2007, BCHR was aware of over 26 blocked websites, local and international. These blockages were mainly in reaction to online reporting about political scandals in Bahrain, especially what was locally dubbed the "Bandergate report" about the misappropriation of public lands, administrative and financial corruption, discrimination and favoritism.

Blocked sites included:

1. Six forums belonging to some villages in Bahrain ( , , , , , );
2. Four general forums ( , , , );
3. Two sites of civic organizations and popular committees ( , );
4. The sites of two political organisations and movements ( and );
5. The sites of two human rights organizations ( , );
6. The sites of two religious groups (Copts, Arab Christians: , );
7. One Kurdish nationalist sites ( );
8. One secular site ( );
9. Two electronic newspapers ( , );
10. Two news and advertising sites ( , );
11. One humour site (;
12. One blog ( ).

Censorship of these sites was made on the basis of the notorious Press Decree Code No. 47 of 2002. Over 14 Bahraini journalists have been interrogated, prosecuted, or taken to trial based on this law.

These actions of the Bahraini authorities violate the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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