The BCHR has received information that the Bahraini authorities arrested Al-Rashid last October for exercising his legitimate right to freely express his opinions by contributing to forums and popular sites like Bahrain Online and Al Jazeera Talk. Al-Rashid is being charged with "spreading false rumors and news with the intention of harming public security."
Bahraini bloggers and activists, who face frequent targeting and sometimes even detention for their online activities, often hide their real identity, using pseudonyms on national forum websites. This did not prevent the authorities from locating Al-Rashid, however. Furthermore, it is evident from the prosecutor's files that they are relying on the investigation conducted by the security authorities; information in the files appears to have been lifted word for word from security offices' case files, even down to the spelling mistakes.
The BCHR renews its call to the Bahraini authorities to abandon all actions that restrict freedom of opinion and expression and to respect all forms of freedom of expression as guaranteed by international covenants and treaties. The BCHR further calls for the amendment of press law no. 47 of 2002 in line with international standards of human rights and for an end to the targeting of bloggers under the terrorism act.
Bahrain has been ranked by RSF as one of the "countries under surveillance", in its yearly "Enemies of the Internet" report. Bahrain's status has also been categorized for the second consecutive year (2009, 2010) as "Not Free", according to a yearly list published by the NGO Freedom House. Two of the top bloggers in Bahrain, academic AbdulJalil Al-Singaise, and blogger Ali Abdul-Imam, are detained and being tried under the terrorism act over their electronic, social and political activity.
The BCHR believes that the internet has played an important role in providing a new means for the free expression of opinion; it is also the primary method used to report human rights abuses to the outside world, especially for cases that the local media would not dare to cover.
The BCHR recalls that criminalizing activists for writing about human rights conditions in the country is a flagrant violation of international treaties and conventions on human rights, specifically Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that, "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."
The campaign being led by the Bahraini authorities against bloggers and activists therefore undermines Bahrain's status as a member of the Human Rights Council and contradicts its continued claims to respect freedom of opinion and expression.