Monday, April 25, 2005

Blogs too?

There's a Dilbert comic that ran last month in which the pointy-haired boss asked Dilbert to make a print-out of the internet because he wanted to do "some serious surfing." As I read today's news of what the Bahraini government is about to do, all I could think is that point-haired boss exists in real life, and he's a minister in Bahrain.

Read this
Webmasters must register or face legal action

MANAMA: Webmasters face prosecution if they defy new rules announced by Bahraini authorities. All Bahraini websites set up here or abroad must register with the Information Ministry or face legal action, it was declared yesterday.

A six-month campaign is being launched next Monday to register all Bahraini websites, under orders from Information Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar.

"The ministry will announce soon the details of how each website owner or supervisor can register," Information Under-Secretary Mahmood Al Mahmood told the GDN.

"If they fail to register then legal action will be taken against them based on the country's printing and publishing laws."

He said websites would face similar laws to newspapers, related to libel, public decency and ethics. Just as a newspaper editor-in-chief is held responsible for what he publishes, so will the webmasters be, he said.

Source: GDN

Talk about a brain fart if there ever was one.

In a statement to the Bahrain Tribune, Jamal Dawood said: “The campaign is part of our efforts to create a better environment for investors and businesses, and bolster social development. It also aims to promote and protect human rights and the freedom of the Press.”

I might be just a silly Omani, but how does this process protect human rights?

Do you think they send copies of their laws to the respective ministries in other GCC countries, as in "hey, check out the latest thing we came up with to piss off our people.. thought you might like it and want to implement it too"?

For more on the story and the reaction in Bahrain read the following blogs:

Mahmood's take: Freedom of Speech my big toe!

Silly Bahraini Girl: The Bahrain Ministry of Information claims ownership of the WWW

Bahraini by Nature: Free Speech Protected Blog


Wardat_il'7leej said...

Hide this you realise who read your BLOG!!!

Blue Chi said...

This is just crazy, there is no way for them to tell if a website is owned by a Bahraini, some domain registration companies would register the domain by their names, and still, some people actually create their websites on subdomains or any other way that does not require any specific real info to be put on a website, (eg. Geocities). The law seems to be extremely stupid and almost impossible to enforce... and OK, if someone does not register his website, what is going to happen?

On the other hand, I think that for people that actually do register their website might benefit as if registered websites do get published as this might help advertise for a website. I think that what we need is an online association sort of thing rather than a governmental body to regulate our content.

muscati said...

blue_chi, this isn't about regulation. It's about a government trying to control the freedom of speech of its own citizens on the internet. What it boils down to is this:

If any website or blog writes anything the Bahraini government doesn't like, they want to be able to know exactly who the person who wrote it is. If all Bahrainis register their sites, and this law apparently includes blogs, not just registered domains; then if you're Bahraini you'd think twice before you write anything that the government doesn't like. Because if they don't like it, they know exactly who you are, where you live, etc.

And if you don't register your site and you write something against the government, all they need to do is instruct the ISPs to block the site because it's illegal and not registered with the Ministry of Information as per the law.

This isn't about benefit to the site owners and bloggers, i.e. the citizens and residents of Bahrain. It's about a country trying to do the impossible: controlling the internet.

Blue Chi said...

It is as you said: Impossible, there is no way for them to actually catch all the websites that are registered by Bahrainis, if they are going to block all the websites made by Bahrainis that are not registered this would mean that they would terminate the internet in Bahrain. Regulation equals controlling the internet.

I think that the actual possible solution to the problem is by establishing an internet association that actually grants benefits to internet webmasters and actual websites, the association would require registration to acquire these benefits. If a person violates the codes created by the association then the member would be basically rejected and would not be granted any of the benefits of the association.

There is no motive to make the Bahraini webmasters register with the government. If you violate the rules you would be banned by the ISP whether you are registered or not, if you are registered you would get into deeper trouble because you are identifiable. On the other hand, if you don't make trouble you will not be banned whether you are registered or not.

Balance could be created by creating some sort of benefit on the webmasters to register.

Desert Island Boy said...

Check what's Behind Door No. 2

Chanad said...

blue chi: Most of the people that the government wants registered would not be willing to join this association for any benefits (unless you give lots and lots of money and cars and camels). The real issue is that the government wants to scare people away from saying anything controversial.

Muscati: I remember that Dilbert cartoon... what a perfect comparison you've made... I'm trying to imagine what our MoI would look like with pointy hair!

calkoon said...

Absolute madness... This new Bahraini law is going to backfire...!!

They'd need a new Ministry just to track down Bahrainis with websites and blogs..

bigdaddybean said...

"Silly Bahraini Girl: The Bahrain Ministry of Information claims ownership of the WWW"

Damn ... "Al Gore" must have made off like a bandit selling the internet to Baharain.

And I didn't get a penny of it!

A. Woman in black said...

I don’t think that governments should be worrying too much about any “controversial” things that their citizens might say on websites, blogs, newspapers,etc….at least not enough to big brother them into submission by “scaring” them and making them register . I might be na├»ve here, but what are they afraid of?

I think they should start worrying though, when their citizens don’t feel free to say what they want ?

Petite For Life said...

Now Bahrain Govt. who will be next?

Mahmood Al-Yousif said...

Let me clear up a misconception here if I may; what we had in Bahrain is an "administrative rule" and not a law. Laws must be made through the parliament. This "administrative rule" is no more than a brain-fart of a intellectually challenge low-level official.

thankfully they seem to have realised their mistake and reparations (or at least sweep under the carpet) are on the way... we hope.

on to the next fiasco!

I love your comparison with Dilbert by the way, extremely APT! I'm going to dig that cartoon up and send it - FRAMED - to Jamal Dawood as a measure of our overflowing respect for his astute knowlege of the internet!