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Free Ali

Demanding the release of Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam

The Arabian Spring

From the Sunday Times Review:
The tensions that arise from attempting democratic reform in an oil-rich society under absolute monarchy were demonstrated last week in Bahrain, where three internet “bloggers” were thrown in jail for insulting the royal family.

Bahrain held parliamentary elections three years ago — women were allowed to vote — but the 70% Shi’ite majority population has continued to complain that the Sunni ruling family retains control through an appointed upper chamber of parliament. Without a fully free press, according to critics of the family, the internet has emerged as a forum for dissent through weblogs. “Every village in Bahrain has one — even the most remote villages,” said a blogger in her twenties. “You get a lot of different opinions on there and you really feel the pulse of the street.” However, government officials also scan these internet forums and the bloggers were arrested last Sunday accused of defaming the monarch, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, spreading false rumours and spreading hatred of the regime on a site (bahrainonline.org) that gets an average of 80,000 hits a day. They could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Last November, however, the king ordered the immediate release of a human rights activist jailed for a year for inciting hatred of the government.

IF THE Bahrain bloggers have transgressed in a relatively benign climate, young Arabs like them are seen by the Americans at Freedom House as the key to democratic mobilisation against tougher regimes.

Read the entire article
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