Abdel Imam, a leading online journalist and the founder of the BahrainOnline news website, was arrested as part of broad government crackdown on political opponents, human rights defenders, and critical journalists ahead of October parliamentary elections.
The government sought to shield its actions from public scrutiny. On August 27, the public prosecutor issued a gag order barring journalists from reporting on the crackdown. Hundreds of people, mostly from the country’s Shiite majority, were arrested in the crackdown. Most were released, but the government put 23 prominent defendants on trial in October on multiple antistate charges.
BahrainOnline, which featured political news and commentary, had been blocked domestically since 2002 but was still widely read through proxy servers. The government shut its operations completely on the day Abdel Imam was arrested.