Bahrain shelves bill to protect official secrets
Manama, January 21, 2014
A proposal that protects classified government information has been shelved for two weeks following disagreements between Shura Council members on its contents.
During yesterday's five-hour discussion, council members agreed that the government-drafted legislation contained controversial articles which needed further study, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The draft law has been referred to the council's foreign affairs, defence and national security committee for further review.
The proposal states that people leaking "top" secret information and documents will be jailed for up to seven years, or fined between BD1,000 ($2,617) and BD3,000, or both.
Those leaking secret information and documents will be sentenced up to five years in jail, or fined between BD1,000 and BD2,000, or both.
If approved Bahrain could be the first country in the region to introduce such a law.
However, woman and child committee chairwoman Rabbab Al Arrayedh warned that implementing the law would harm Bahrain's reputation.
"I still believe the Interior and Defence Ministries need to protect its secrets, but I don't believe that it is necessary in other ministries like the Education Ministry, which should be transparent and open," she said.
"This law was something that some countries have implemented 30 or 40 years ago and having it in Bahrain now will certainly harm its reputation.
"Hiding information and documents means a hindrance to accountability and encourages corruption."
Committee chairman Dr Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa said the law was necessary in the wake of an "information revolution".
"We can't underestimate secrets in each ministry, for example, the Finance Ministry has a lot of documents that can't be leaked out to the public," he said.
"Information revolution can be good and bad, it could lead to more transparency and at the same time jeopardise the country."
The legislation classifies information as top secret, secret and limited.
It also states that officials who leak top secret documents will be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail, or fined between BD2,000 and BD5,000, or both.
Other officials leaking secret information and documents to the public will be sentenced to up to seven years in jail or fined between BD1,000 and BD3,000, or both.
Those acquiring secret information through illegal channels will be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.
Anyone trying to break into a prohibited area or hack the computer system to get documents and information will be sentenced to up to five years in jail. - TradeArabia News Service