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New Bahrain hotline on blocked websites

Manama, February 13, 2011

A hotline is being set up to deal with complaints about websites that have been blocked in Bahrain.

The Information Affairs Authority's Directorate of Publications and Press aims to set the record straight with forum moderators, website designers and the public about why such decisions are taken.

'We want to change the mindset of public who regularly criticise us for blocking websites and curtailing freedom of expression,' said directorate acting director Khalid Alarabi.

'This is not true at all as we want people to express themselves using the Internet, but in the right way that does not violate Bahrain laws.'

He said the directorate hoped the initiative would allow officials to connect with the public and explain why certain websites have been blocked.

An e-mail account will also be set up to take complaints.

Alarabi said despite blocking dangerous websites such as those featuring pornography, gambling, money laundering and have instructions about how to make bombs or Molotov cocktails staff got nothing but criticism.

'These websites are tracked regularly by the Internet filters we use to identify and block them,' he said.

'But invariably the issue is politicised and public ignore the fact that we are responsible for Internet safety.

'If a website is unjustly blocked, the owners can rectify the situation and the site will be unblocked.

'We are not against people expressing their opinions online, but they should not go ahead and call for violence, disrespect religion or leaders.'

More than half a million people use the Internet in Bahrain and Alarabi said about 1,200 websites of Bahrain origin existed with the number continuing to grow.

Last month several websites were blocked by mistake due to a technical error.

Among those affected was Bahraini blogger Amira Al Hussaini, who is Global Voices Online regional editor for the Middle East and North Africa.

She said her site www.sillybahrainigirl.blogspot.com was blocked after being incorrectly categorised as pornographic.

Alarabi said 26 pornographic websites with the domain 'Bahraingirl' had been blocked.

'The filter tracked the blogger's website based on this and categorised it by mistake as pornographic,' he said.

'But we met the blogger and explained the situation.

'We sometimes receive complaints from young women, whose pictures were used without their consent on certain websites.

'They posted their pictures on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other networking sites.

'Our department helps them to track down those websites and block them if required.'

Alarabi said the directorate hoped to encourage positive use of the Internet amid a recent trend that had seen people posting sectarian comments on each other's websites.

He advised moderators and website owners not to call for violence and disrespect religion, communities or the country's leaders.

'We are always open for constructive criticism and receive suggestion from website owners,' said Alarabi.

'They can contact us and explain their view and we can raise our points.

'Our aim is to strengthen partnership with community so that they inform us of any website which is against Bahraini laws,' he said.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | computers | Internet | law | IT | blocked website |

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