Bahraini activist Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdha, acting head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was sentenced to 30 days in prison for tweeting a photo of an injured demonstrator during a protest. As soon as he took the picture and uploaded it to twitter, five men in plain clothes surrounded him, took his phone, and placed Sayed under arrest. He was officially charged with “disseminating false news,” which is an actual law that is aimed towards discouraging public criticism of Bahrain’s government, officials, and other aspects in the political sphere.
On Twitter, Muhafdha has 82,717 followers and has posted 44,918 tweets; most of which are photos or videos of Bahraini citizens protesting. The photo in question, and subsequently got him arrested, showed an individual with a gunshot wound to the leg. Earlier in the day of his arrest (November 2nd) he had tweeted photos of security forces firing teargas toward protesters in the village of Bilad al-Qadeem. Also after personally looking on his Twiiter page, I came across a photo of a man carrying a younger male in his harms with a severe head wound. Some of his pictures are very graphic, however, it conveys the brutality of the Bahrain police forces and the current ground conditions of democratic protests. The Human Rights Watch News noted , “Under article 168 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, amended in October, anyone who willfully disseminates false news knowing that it might result in harm to national security or the public order or safety faces up to two years in prison and a fine of 200 dinars (US$525 ). The law says that the dissemination of the false news must amount to incitement to violence, with a direct link to its occurrence or to the probability of its occurrence.”
The arrest of Muhafdha is one of many examples in which Bahrain is violating basic rights of expression and public discourse. Protests and demonstrations are considered to be a threat to the very survival of the constitutional anarchy set in place. Yousif’s documentation Bahrain police actions and reporting on it through social media outlets brings to light the current Sunni-Shia relations since the Arab Spring. It is also important to note that Bahrain has no opposition or politically charged TV and radio channels. However, Bahrain is a party of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is monitored by the UN Humans Rights Council (UNHRC). The UNHRC have publically expressed dissapointment of such arrests and have stated, “These persons are political and human rights activists and we are concerned they may have been wrongly convicted for legitimate activities. We are also concerned by the extreme harshness of some of the sentences, including imprisonment for life.”
Link to Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafdhah Twitter page: https://twitter.com/SAIDYOUSIF
Human Rights Watch Artilce:http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/01/03/bahrain-charges-against-rights-defender-raise-concerns
UN News: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43885&Cr=Bahrain&Cr1#.UUdsVtasjTo