26 January, 2009

Liberating Speech

Five days ago, I wrote a note on Facebook:

Imprisonment of Speech

I am sure most of you know of the efforts of the Ministry of Culture and Information to ban websites. I think we are all together that this is unacceptable, unimplementable, and simply put: ILLEGAL as it goes against the Bahraini Law which protects the freedom of speech.
A group of us tried to avoid this by introducing the Anti Hate Code of Ethics (http://www.bahraincodeofethics.com) and prefer that any offending website be prosecuted under the law with a chance of representation rather than resort to this old and ineffective method.

My friends,
Whether you signed the code or not, I implore you to write about the matter in your own blogs. We should also unify our forces to make our voice heard. We could hold up a rally or send one letter of objection bearing our signatures. I invite you to come up with more suggestions on what we can do about it.


Manaf Almuhandis


Now, this has started with Shaikha Mai Alkhaleefa taking the helm as a minister. I am a fan of much of her work. She brought a breath of fresh air to Bahrain when she saved our souls with the “Spring of Culture”.

However, I would have to disagree with her on this virtual blind fold. Let me try to paint you a picture:

It is the 1980’s. No internet and no Satellite TV channels and nothing. The only communications we have with the outside world are videotapes, cassettes, books and magazines.

In these simpler times, banning something would actually work. If the government says for a reason or another that a film for example is unacceptable and not wanted, the majority of the population, if not all, will not get to see it. Tapes will be easily found and confiscated. And then what? Banning media at that age was quite effective.

But that was a long, long, LONG time ago. Just look at my brother, he was a mere idea in ’86 and was born in ’87. Today he is a 186 cm tall man, with a goatee, driving license and a college degree. Media has grown that much too.

What is the ministry hoping to achieve? Seriously? If they think they can stop people from accessing info and media in 2009, they must be delusional. Let me just count the ways that I, a non IT technician, could think of:

1. Use a proxy website. I know these get banned too, but hundreds pop out every day. The proxy websites are aware of that and email their customers a list of new addresses periodically.

2. Use a programme like Hotspot. Even if the download site is blocked, many have it and will circulate it through email forwards to all of Bahrain by this weekend.

3. Subscribe in RSS & Atom feeds: Simple. All blogs and many websites have them now. Simply click on “Subscribe to the Redbelt” to the right side bar and you will see the familiar orange box looking icon. Just click that icon wherever you go and you can get the posts immediately by email. Or you can use a service like Google Reader to read it there.

This is just off the top of my head.

Let us assume I had a blocked website (god forbid), I can easily clone my ENTIRE website and have it running from a free server with a new unblocked address. I can also email all my readers so they would know. Effectively making the ban absolutely worthless in 15 minutes.

I do understand that Shaikha Mai Alkhalifa, and the rest of the people at the ministry, mean well. So, here is my honest solution to the ministry: Go with the flow.

Example: In martial arts; to stop a punch you can either block it (which uses lots of energy and you risk injury) or... redirect it. Like Akido. Look at the following video.

Now, this is implementable in real life.In practice we can look at Apple:

One day, people found out that MP3s were popular. CD sales went down. Piracy went up. All the companies started FIGHTING mp3 sites trying to stop it, but they couldn’t. They still can’t.

Apple went and introduced itunes. If people want MP3s, give them MP3s! So simple. It worked.

The ministry is trying to block sites, which is pointless. I will still go to the same websites I went to and get all the media I got before the ban. I REPEAT: I will still go to the same websites I went to and get all the media I got before the ban. I am not affected. Bahrain is.

I am concerned about the public view of the ministry and, by extension, Bahrain as a whole. We don’t want the world to think that we are ruled by a dictatorship do we? Especially when reality is anything but that. In our post reform Bahrain, freedom of speech is guaranteed in the constitution itself:

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Chapter III, Article 23 (General Rights and Obligations): “Freedom of opinion and scientific research is guaranteed. Everyone has the right to express his opinion and publish it by word of mouth, in writing or otherwise under the rules and conditions laid down by law, provided that the fundamental beliefs of Islamic doctrine are not infringed, the unity of the people is not prejudiced, and discord or sectarianism is not aroused.”

The National Action Charter also addressed the matter:

The National Action Charter, Chapter I (Fourth: Freedom of expression and publication): “Every citizen shall have the right to express himself orally, in writing or in any other way of expression of personal opinion or creativity. Under this law, freedom of scientific research, publishing, press and printing are ensured within the scope specified by law”, provided it is a responsible freedom within the scope of preserving the social fabric, and does not infringe on the freedoms of others or their religious, sectarian, or intellectual affiliation.

I strongly suggest that the Ministry uses our Judicial system. If a website is considered offensive, a court case can be filed and the law will take its proposed course (That is, after all, why we have courts in the first place). Even if there was a need to rush and take a site down in a short time, an urgent case can be filed and such an order can be had within a day.

I hope the ministry takes heed of my humble advice.

I thank the many bloggers who wrote on the matter:

Eyad's Coffee Break

Yagoob's Dome



The view from Fez

Silly Bahraini Girl

S as in Saudi


Mughtarib (Ar)

Another Day in my life

Khalidbahrain (Ar)

And many, many more...

10 January, 2009

IDF officers admitt there was no gunfire from Gaza school

In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school. UNRWA is demanding an objective investigation into whether the school shelling constituted a violation of international humanitarian law

read more | digg story

09 January, 2009

Support Ghaza

You may have noticed that this blog wasn't updated with a "Happy New Year". The thing is the new year didn't start happy. Israel keeps bombing the innocent civilians of Palestine. The death toll at the moment stands at 765.
When we hear of the death of one person, we feel sad. Millions felt sad when Bernie Mac died. When Anna Nicole Smith died. When Foe died on the pitch. the examples are numerous.
But 765? It's only a number. You don't know them. Stalin said it best: "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."
People are angry, this blogger included. Today, a Rally to express this rage started out after Friday prayer.

Here is my $0.02 analysis:
Israel claims that Hamas is shooting at Israel and that they hide between civilians. Thus the civilian deaths. Lets analyze this:
1- Hamas could be hiding between civilians. But after 765 civilian deaths, this is proven to be a failed tactic as Israel will bomb you anyway. Hence, if I was a civilian, I wouldn't harbor Hamas in my house. No sense the two of us dying. My civilian death will add nothing.
But this is not the case, is it? As I see more civilian deaths every day; this leads me to...

2- Hamas is NOT hiding between civilians. Which would make sense as Israel claims rockets are still being fired at them. Which means they're not dead yet nor their machinery is destroyed. If this is so, then the only reason I can think of to continue the raids...

3- Israel is killing civilians on purpose to: a) inflict internal pressure on Hamas to cease. And b) Decrease the number of Palestinians anyway.

So I do think that Israel is committing mass war crimes here.

Another catalyst for killing Arabs is Money. Someone somewhere is making money off of it. Rationale:
Israel is the #1 recipient of American foreign Aid.
$2.4 Billion is given away to Israel per year. This will change starting 2009 to be $30 Billion per annum for the next 10 years (That is a total of $300 Billion, my friends).

Virtually all of this money is used to buy weapons (up to 75% made in the U.S.).

So the US gives money to Israel, but forces it to spend three quarters of it on American weapons.
In plain simple English, to me American friends:
Someone is taking your tax dollars, giving it to Israel, and is TELLING Israel to give it to certain arms merchants.
You may as well just give the money to the Arms merchants yourself!

If I was an Arms merchant who can get access to these billions upon billions, I would certainly "secure" my friends in the government who would "facilitate" such laws. I would also be tempted to "increase demand" in Israel by, well, I dunno. Faking attacks? Spreading rumors? Inciting Hamas (or any other) to strike? Having Israel in need of Arms gives me the Ferrari liquidity I need.

People, the ones dying in the middle are innocent. If you have to be a skeptic then most of them are innocent and I don't buy this collateral damage crap.
Do something about it. I'm not talking about mere donations. That is simply giving the man a fish. Please, do something to break this vicious cycle. I implore you.