It looks like Internet defamation laws in Bahrain are about to get a little stricter — but the infamously conservative country doesn’t want you thinking they’re infringing on rights. Hey, politicians are the same no matter time no place.
In an announcement today, the country’s Acting General Director of Corruption Combating and Electronic and Economic Security said that his department would be cracking down on Internet defamation, especially on social media sites.
Now, let’s be clear, officials don’t seem to be too concerned about the reputations of private citizens, as their statement specifically highlighted actions against those who “defame and insult patriotic person[s] and public figures.” Whoo wee, imagine if those were the online defamation standards in the United States. Comments on Fox Nation and The Huffington Post would probably result in millions of lawsuits every four years.
“Online smear campaigns,” the statement continued, “are tarnishing the reputation of national symbols and leading public figures from different age categories.” (Age categories? Yeah, I have no idea. Are politicians’ children also considered “leading public figures.”)
Despite their focus on public figures, though, the commission was sure to mention that “the measure aims at confronting violations which contravene the exercise of these rights in conformity with constitutional and legal provisions.” In other words, the government line is, “don’t worry, we’re not doing this to restrict freedom of speech, we’re doing this to crack down on illegal acts.” Eager to get the public in on the act, the department is also encouraging citizens, who feel they have been the target of online and social media defamation, to report it immediately.
Bahrain doesn’t have the strongest free speech reputation. The country’s slander and libel laws favor authorities, and the government is often accused of using defamation laws to control the media. The Ministry of Culture and Information has a history of banning books and freedom of information is not a given.
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