Rumour-mongers in Bahrain face jail, fine
Manama, March 7, 2012
People convicted of intentionally spreading false information that leads to violence could face up to two years in prison and a minimum fine of BD200 ($530.46) in Bahrain, said a senior government official.
Those convicted of publishing false documents, leaflets or fabricated pictures that harm national security and negatively affect the economy will also face the same punishment, if changes to the Penal Code law are approved.
Parliament yesterday backed several government-drafted amendments despite opposition from its foreign affairs, defence and national security committee.
Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa said the amendments were not in line with international laws surrounding freedom of speech.
"MPs will put Bahrain in international trouble because under freedom of speech, punishments on theoretical assumption that someone is saying something to deliberately harm the country is wrong," he said.
"We have to acknowledge that difference in opinion is subjective and not objective and what is considered false to someone is true to another and, secondly, we have to look if it causes harm or not and here what's meant is substantial harm.
"Parliament legal experts are saying no Arab country is currently adopting this system while coming up with a case against individuals or groups and that's because they are not aware of new international principles and guidelines regarding freedom of speech and expression," he added.
But foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman Sawsan Taqawi said the amendments were a preventative measure to protect Bahrain.
"Do we have to wait to see if false news means harm or not and what is substantial harm?" she questioned. "Is it when someone gets seriously injured or sustains losses or state institutions come under threat?"
Financial and economic affairs committee chairman Ali Al Durazi said the government wanted to give people more freedom, but MPs appeared intent on imposing more restrictions.
Meanwhile, MPs backed the omission of two articles from the Penal Code.
The first punishes people taking part in foreign political, social or economic gatherings or meetings with no less than three months in jail, a fine of not less than BD100, or both.
Another punishes those who produce, promote, spread or publish pictures that may harm the country's reputation, with a sentence of up to two years, a maximum fine of BD200, or both.
Several sets of amendments to the Penal Code that would see government officials jailed for 10 years if they physically or psychologically threaten, torture or force suspects to confess to crimes they did not commit or disclose information were also approved
The punishment would be a life sentence if the threat, torture or force led to death.
The amendments, in line with Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry proposals, will now be studied by the Shura Council. – TradeArabia News Service