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Comeback vow by Bahrain journalist

Manama, September 23, 2010

A Bahraini journalist, whose BlackBerry news service and website have been banned by authorities, has pledged to do whatever it takes to get them legalised.

Muhannad Sulaiman Al Noaimi, whose Muhannad BlackBerry group attracted close to 32,000 subscribers, had been told the service was actually illegal.

His website Bahrain Breaking News (www.ajilbahrain.com) - which attracts over 122,000 visitors a month - has also been shut down for allegedly flouting rules on distributing news.

Neither service was licensed by authorities, but Al Noaimi told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News (GDN) he would do everything in his power to get official permission to resume his activities.

'I have 16 BlackBerrys and thousands of subscribers who want to stay posted on latest news and developments in the kingdom,' he said yesterday.

He needed so many devices due to a cap on the number of BlackBerry groups available on each phone.

However, Al Noaimi, who also has a Facebook group with over 10,000 members, admitted the Information Affairs Authority (IAA) decision to close him down was difficult to take - claiming his website and BlackBerry group were not connected to political affairs.

He described most of the information that appeared on his Muhannad BlackBerry group as official statements, breaking news and updates related to Bahrain.

'I started this group in December last year and since then it has grown at a fast pace,' he said.

'(But) we respect Bahraini laws and regulations and will stop providing our free services for our BlackBerry group and website subscribers until further notice.

'Our legal advisory team is working on the case to fulfil the formalities.'

IAA publications and publishing director general Dr Abdulla Abdulrahman Yateem announced on Tuesday that Al Noaimi's news services had been stopped.

He added a licence issued by the IAA was required to operate as a Press organisation before it could collect news, compile information and distribute it to the public.

Al Noaimi had already been warned once about the BlackBerry service earlier this year by the old Culture and Information Ministry, which instructed him to legalise his news service.

However, the government has maintained all along that there are no plans for a complete ban on the BlackBerry messenger service in Bahrain.

The service is gaining in popularity across the country, with users forming their own groups to disseminate information about latest news, sport and traffic information - including the location of police speed cameras.

Political societies such as the National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad) and Al Wefaq National Islamic Society have also launched their own BlackBerry groups to share information and photographs with their members.

Cabinet Affairs Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Ateyatala Al Khalifa said last month that there were almost 78,000 BlackBerry subscribers in Bahrain, according to latest Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) figures.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | media | BlackBerry | IT | Journalist |

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