Bahrain imposes blackout on BlackBerry news sharing

April 8, 2010
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Bahrain is imposing a ban on BlackBerry sharing of local news, saying that users needed an official licence.

Abdullah Yateem, the culture and information ministry assistant undersecretary for press and publication, said that the decision was taken to avoid confusion and chaos.

“News about incidents and other issues were disseminated in Bahrain through mobile phones and some newspapers over the last few days,” Yateem said. “In view of the chaos and confusion caused by such news among the public, especially since the source is individuals and groups that did not have official permission from the ministry, we have summoned those individuals and informed them that we will be taking legal action against the offenders who broke the regulations and laws,” Yateem was said.

An immediate result of the ministry’s action was the suspension of daily news provided by “Breaking News”, started by Muhannad Sulaiman, a Bahraini journalist, to more than 13,000 Blackberry subscribers.

A daily feature provided for free by Breaking News was a 6.00 am summary of the front pages of the six daily newspapers.

“I am sorry about the inconvenience, but as you do know, it is well beyond my capabilities,” Muhannad, wrote in a message to subscribers. “I will suspend the service in compliance with the law, but it will be only for a few days until I complete the procedures to get the licence. I will not give up this right to freedom of providing information, and I thank all those who have expressed their support, including the many ministers and senior officials who I discovered were members of the group,” he said.

BlackBerry has witnessed huge popularity amid professionals and students keen on using messengers. Information posted by groups and individuals include breaking news, traffic police speed traps and accidents.

Al Wefaq, the largest political and religious society in Bahrain, with 17 of the lower chamber’s 40 seats, has been using the Blackberry chat opportunity to send its major news and statements, while a local daily, Al Wasat, has also resorted to the facility to communicate major and breaking news.

Last month, Saudi media reported that the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) had asked Canada-based Research In Motion, the company that owns the popular BlackBerry mobile device, to allow the telecommunications regulator access to monitor messages sent by BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, the special messaging service for BlackBerry phone users. The Saudis were concerned that terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda were using the free messaging service to communicate secretly, Saudi reports said.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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