Bahrain threatens to target critical social media users

Interior minister says government will draft new legislation to fight accounts spreading ‘malicious rumours’.

Social media websites have been important for mobilisation since protests erupted in 2011 [Ahmed al-Fardan/EPA]

Bahrain threatened to hunt down social media users who are sowing “chaos” as the Gulf nation continues to target human rights proponents.

In a statement published on Sunday by the official Bahrain News Agency, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa said his country is considering new legislation to “deal with unprecedented chaos by disruptive social media accounts”.

“We won’t be far from tracking them down and taking legal action against them even if we need to draft new legislation to tackle the latest developments in such crimes with their negative effects on members of society and the national fabric,” Khalifa said.

Police will investigate any “such accounts [that] spread malicious rumours that went against social harmony and civil peace”, he added.

Social media websites have been an important avenue for the mobilisation of protests in the island kingdom since 2011, with Twitter a particularly popular platform. The government has jailed dozens of activists and opposition figures. 

Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, a leading figure in the protests, has been behind bars since 2015 for tweets critical of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Riyadh is Manama’s top ally in the region.     

‘Beaten, mistreated and threatened’

Meanwhile, exiled activist Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei told reporters on Saturday that authorities had resorted to intimidating family members in an effort to stop his work.

Wadaei, director of the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), said his wife was sentenced last week in absentia to two months in prison.

His wife, Duaa, was detained and interrogated as she and their son departed Bahrain’s airport after a visit in 2016.

His mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hassan, has begun a hunger strike in jail after she was sentenced to three years in jail last year for allegedly planting a fake bomb – an allegation she denies. 

“Their escalation against both of my family members was no coincidence,” Wadaei told Reuters news agency.

“My wife was beaten, mistreated and threatened that they are going after our family to punish me. Now all their threats were executed.”

Bahrain authorities did not immediately respond to the accusations.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies