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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

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“Imprisoned bloggers were tortured”

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

We all have our complaints against the Bahraini government and the parliament for sometimes restricting free speech and especially free press through the Press Law, the Societies Law, the proposed law on gatherings (1, 2), and blocking some websites. Despite all of the problems though I think it is safe to say that Bahraini bloggers have, as of yet, not had any problems in speaking our minds about politics, human rights, the royal family, or anything. (If any Bahraini bloggers have encountered problems then please tell).

Unfortunately not all of our blogger comrades in the region enjoy this freedom. (Via Winds of Change) In a recent blog entry, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, an Iranian politician and former VP of Parliamentary Affairs, has published some details of interrogation and torture faced by the Iranian bloggers who were imprisoned earlier. This blog entry (written in Persian) has been translated into English by UK-based Iranian blogger Parthisan. Here is the start of the translation:

Following a call from the President, the constitutional supervision committee -- of which I'm a member -- invited a number of imprisoned bloggers for a meeting to investigate about the way they were treated in prison. Mr Hanif Mazruee, Ghoreishi, Ms Fereshte Ghaazi, Naderpoor and Ms Mahboobeh Mollagholi attended the meeting. They told very important points about the unjustifiable treatment they had received, including:

1- Physical torture, punches and kicks: "he banged my head to the bench that made my recently-operated nose bleed, and later I found out that they broke my nose"; "they punched us"; "we were alone in single cells for months"; and things of this kind... (Continue)

Read the rest here.

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8 Responses to '“Imprisoned bloggers were tortured”'

Blogger Scorpio says:

Do things seem to have got back on the track after the Khawaja affair?

There seem to be a few positive things going on recently: head of the legal affairs committee in parliament and diamond in the rough extremist MP, Hamad Mohannadi, is derailing the restrictive legislation on freedom of assembly. The guy might look like a psychopath and I certainly wouldn't fly if he was on the same plane as me, but he has taken some positive stances recently. There's little chance that its any sort of principle on his part and more likely that Asalah have woken up to the fact that if the legislation were to go through it'd prevent their next rally in support of Zarqawi, but no matter.

On getting rid of Law 47 there does seem to be some progress with former journalist Ibrahim Bashmi's legislation now before the cabinet according to this article in the Gulf News:

Bahrain studies new press law
Manama | By Mohammad Almezel, Bureau Chief | 27/12/2004

A new press draft law, described by its author as "very progressive," is being studied by the government's legal affairs committee, the Bahraini Cabinet said yesterday.

A statement issued at the end of the Cabinet's weekly session said the draft law had been "written in light of a proposed legislation submitted by the Shura Council," the appointed upper chamber of the National Assembly.

According to the proposed law's chief author, council's member Ebrahim Bashmi, the new legislation would "take the level of freedom of expression in Bahrain to unprecedented levels."

"It is a very progressive law that aims to protect journalists and grant them unhindered access to information," he told Gulf News yesterday.

He said it was "in line with the reform movement led by His Majesty King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa." The proposed law is aimed to replace the current Law 47, which, according to Bashmi, "is opposed by most journalists and human rights activists." The current law, introduced in October 2002, however, is still in effect.

Bashmi's version had been endorsed by the Shura Council earlier this year. It was later submitted to the government. If the government approves it, it will be then sent to the elected Council of Representatives for final approval.

Bashmi said the proposed law abolishes the prison punishment. "It is being replaced by fines. The new law also limits the cases under which journalists can be prosecuted," he said.

Also, it transfers the authority to close down newspapers from the ministry of information to the judiciary.

"It also gives reporters a wide access to information and news, they would not be stopped from doing their job nor they would be forced to reveal their sources," he added.

The current law had been challenged by the journalist's association and independent journalists who argue that it fails to meet their ambitions. Its critics point to 18 articles of the 96-article law that detail 'crimes' that entail punishment by jail, fines or suspension.

The debate over the law took a new twist earlier this year when two editors were summoned by the public prosecutor following complaints over reports published in their newspapers.

Push towards freedom of expression

Proposed law abolishes prison punishment. It is being replaced by fines. The new law also limits the cases under which journalists can be prosecuted.

It transfers the authority to close down newspapers from the ministry of information to the judiciary.

It also gives reporters a wide access to information and news, they would not be stopped from doing their job nor they would be forced to reveal their sources.    

Blogger Mahmood Al-Yousif says:

It and when the Bashmi law comes to pass it will indeed raise the level of press freedoms to unprecidented levels. That together with another law he proposed regarding media ownership and operation in Bahrain (print, radio and television) would allow Bahrain to surpass THE WHOLE Arab world and will undoubtedly eclipse Dubai as the main destination of media companies who - if their editorial policy is of any worth - would move to Bahrain in their droves.    

Blogger Bugs says:

Well if the new press law is enacted it will show some progress, but Bahrain has a very long way to go until it can be recognized as a Democracy.
I would have been happier if the law was proposed by a member of parliament not a member who is handpicked by the King.    

Blogger Scorpio says:
12/29/2004 10:48:00 pm

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.    

Blogger Scorpio says:
12/29/2004 11:25:00 pm

I got to agree with you Bugs that it would have been much better if the press law had come from the elected lower chamber, but the extremist majority don't have much time for principles like freedom of speech or right of assembly unless it directly affects them. With the current balance in the lower house sadly for this sort of progressive legislation you've got to rely on people like Bashmi. But then since when have democracy and freedom necessarily gone together?    

Anonymous Anonymous says:
12/31/2004 03:53:00 am

I honestly think the Iranian government has mastered the technique of bluffing based on some imaginary nuclear weapon rumour. While every measure must be taken to assure people of Iran and the world that oil money is not being spent on development of nuclear WMD, the world must also notice that the Iranian gov could be exaggerating by deliberately giving away false information. In this way they will keep the mind of the world busy on the nuclear threat, and this gives them a lot of free time to do whatever they want, oppress intellectual movements, shut down all reformist movements, jail every journalist and recently bloggers. And because everyone is just worried about nukes, the main thing which is 'reform' and consequently 'freedom' will be lost.

If western democracies are serious about helping Iranians, which I think they are, they should give "human rights record" and "nuclear deals" the same weight in the negotiations.

A persian provern says "they offered death so you would be happy with a fever". Our problem is the fever now, we need remedies i.e. international pressure for changes.    

Anonymous Anonymous says:
12/31/2004 04:02:00 am

Remember that in Iran they have around 70,000 active blogs written only in Persian. Even if 5% of them write about politics, still they've got a good few thousand relatively influential political blogs which could create a lot of debate on many issues including taboos, and that obviously attracts the attention of their government.

It's good that you're enjoying a relative freedom of speech, but you need to keep your eyes open and push for a legal system that allows you to speak out, even if a couple of thousand of your blogs say something against the government.    

Blogger Leila M. says:
1/01/2005 04:45:00 am

uhh Chan'ad OMG this is screwed...    

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