Bahrain urges citizens to stop following anti-government social media accounts

A text message was sent out to Bahraini phones urging them to avoid following dissenters

A supporter of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa carries the monarch's photo while driving at a pro-government rally in Manama, Bahrain in 2011. Amy Leang / The National
A supporter of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa carries the monarch's photo while driving at a pro-government rally in Manama, Bahrain in 2011. Amy Leang / The National

Bahrain has warned citizens and residents that following anti-government social media accounts could result in legal action.

The interior ministry sent text messages to Bahraini phones late last week warning that "following accounts which are biased or incite discord could expose you to legal liability".

The government had said in mid-May that "promoting" views on such accounts would result in legal measures being taken, but singling out the specific act of following critical accounts for legal action is a new development.

Bahrain has pursued a wide-ranging security crackdown on enemies of the state since a 2011 uprising saw dozens die and led to troops being sent in from neighbouring ally Saudi Arabia.

Most opposition figures are now either imprisoned or have fled abroad.

The push began in mid-May when the interior ministry said it was taking legal steps against people running accounts from "Iran, Qatar, Iraq and some European countries such as France, Germany and Australia".

It urged people to avoid dealing or interacting with such accounts and said legal measures would be taken against people "promoting their messages".

Then on Thursday, the ministry tweeted that following and circulating "inflammatory" social media accounts that promote "sedition" would expose people to legal liabilities.

"Closing them immediately is a national duty," it said.

An expanded ministry statement on Saturday said these instructions do not impinge on freedom of speech as such content "intends to harm civil peace and the social fabric".

Since 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed an economic and diplomatic boycott on Qatar over allegations that Doha supports terrorism, a charge Qatar denies.

Published: June 3, 2019 02:35 PM

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