New York, March 11, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the prolonged detention of an Internet writer, also known as a Web logger, or blogger, and two technicians working with him.
According to sources in Bahrain, prosecutors in the capital, Manama, summoned Ali Abdel Imam on February 27 and detained him. Abdel Imam is the founder and editor of www.bahrainonline.com, which features a blog with commentary about Bahraini news, as well as a discussion forum. Two technicians who worked on the site with Abdel Imam, Mohamed al-Musawi and Hussein Yousef, were arrested on March 1.
Ahmed al-Arayed, Abdel Imam's lawyer, told CPJ that prosecutors have charged the three men with violating the press, communications, and penal codes. Al- Arayed said that prosecutors have not pointed to any specific violations, but that they claim that Abdel Imam facilitated the publication of defamatory material through his site's discussion forum.
Al-Arayed said that Information Ministry, which banned the site in 2002, is behind the complaint. Visitors to the site have been able to access it through proxies since the ban.
Despite political reforms undertaken by the government in recent years, authorities have imposed news blackouts on the press, criminally prosecuted journalists, censored foreign publications, censored political Web sites, and prosecuted a human rights activist.
"With these arrests, Bahrain has taken another step backward in its respect for freedom of expression," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "Abdel Imam and his colleagues should be released immediately, and the charges against them should be dropped."