I wonder what the case filed against Mahmood Al-Yousif means for Bahraini bloggers. Fortunately it seems the situation may come to an amicable end soon, for which I am happy and relieved.
Still, the case sets a very dangerous precedent.
In its essence, blogging is different from writing in newspapers, magazines, or journals. A blog is a very personal domain and is really just an outlet for the sharing of thoughts, opinions, and feelings. My question at the moment is what should we as bloggers expect, in legal terms? Are we ruled by the same procedures and laws regulating the press? Will this precedent of charging Mr. Al-Yousif open the door for further charges against bloggers? and if so, where do we go from here?
The past year has seen one relentless attack after another against basic freedoms of speech. The press law of 2002 seems to be the beating stick against any form of dissent. It started with charging and suing journalists (e.g. Mansour AlJamri, Ebrahim Bashmi, Mohammed Fadhel, Radhi Al-Muwsawi, Mahdi Rabee, Jawad Abdelwahab, Nazeeha Saeed, Tamam Abusafi, etc), then arresting political activists, and now bloggers.
It is clear that neither our laws nor our political system is interested in protecting free speech, or leaving any space for disagreement. It is very alarming on many levels. Those in charge of the country seem to have no interest in listening to any criticism, constructive or otherwise. The attitude whereby the ruler "just knows better" than the ruled has never changed, despite all the rhetoric. Restricting speech is also alarming since the relative freedom of speech that we acquired in Bahrain starting 2002 was probably one of the factors that kept the country stable. People need to vent out. The more they feel pressured and silenced, the more angry and restless they will become.
It is very unfortunate. Mahmood had suggested that all Bahraini bloggers should go underground for the moment. He also wondered whether he should engage in self-censorship.
I see no point in blogging if one cannot express him or herself honestly. Censorship is the anti-blog! There is also no point in blogging if we're expect to restrict our choices of topics and language out of fear. We might as well just give up, and shut up. Perhaps that was its intent of this, after all. Maybe the hassle of interrogation and the threat of jail is just supposed to be the deterrant that will shut us all up.