8 April 2010

Let Me Speak

I haven't blogged in a while, and not planning on doing it for a while to come.. My "blogging" has shifted to mostly random babbling on twitter, and with decreased spans of attention in people, 140 characters seems about as long as you can keep a persons interested before they drift somewhere else (probably to a photo of a cute kitten or some random YouTube video of something being destroyed).

There are things that tick me off so much with this country, however, that the rage must come out. What is UP with Bahrain? Seriously? So much for a country all about promoting freedom of speech, right to say whatever you want, and so on. But no, after numerous arrests of reporters, the crackdown on websites (no, it's not just a porn crackdown, it's tons of political content too), shutting down a newspaper for a couple of days last year after an 'unpatriotic article', and so on, now they're trying to stick their hands into blackberry messenger groups.

There's been a group started a few months ago called خبر عاجل which translates into 'breaking news'. This basically gives you an update of all news that the newspapers are planning to print tomorrow, today, and also covers some fun stuff such as what movies were released in the cinema, etc. The service is free; as long as you have a blackberry, you can add the service and receive the news updates, wherever you are. This service was started by a single individual who wanted to provide a useful service to the country. He's not profiting from it, and all resources to broadcast the service are financed by him. Subscribers to the service reached approx 12,000 as of yesterday.

But yesterday, the service stopped.

What happened, we asked?

And we got the reply; apparently the Ministry of Culture has decided that this service never got official permission from them to broadcast the news messages, and can thus cause chaos and confusion.

Excuse me, what?

Why the hell does a broadcast message need to get official permission from you? I just sent out a dirty joke via BBM to about 100 people, wanna come and regulate that as well? What a way to say thank you to someone whose just trying to help, and the thing is, he was just sending out news which is meant to be published the next day through "official" publications anyway.

Seems our Ministry of Culture wants to control all messages being sent out via people to people. You will NEVER be able to control information; it goes through email, text messages, word of mouth, Facebook fanpages, twitter, and services you don't even know of let alone understand. It's news articles like this that just gives me a bitter after taste every time I remember the Bahrain National Action Charter:

Fourth - Freedom of expression and publishing

Every citizen shall have the right to express himself orally, in writing or in any other way of expression of personal opinion or creativity. Under this law, freedom of scientific research, publishing, press and printing are ensured within the scope specified by law.

And here's what actually happened:

In a statement carried by the Bahrain News Agency (BANA), Abdullah Yateem, assistant undersecretary for press and publication at the Ministry of Culture and Information, attributed the decision to the "chaos and confusion" of unauthorized news postings.

"In view of the impact that such news create among the public by causing chaos and confusion, especially since the source is individuals and agencies which have failed to obtain official permission by the ministry prior to engaging in such activities, we have summoned those individuals and will be taking legal action against the offenders who broke the regulations and laws," Yateem said.

Way to go Bahrain...