Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior has sent out a text message to all of the country’s citizens and residents threatening them with arrest and prosecution if they are caught following accounts blacklisted by the government, according to tweets posted by various human rights activists.
The text message, which was sent to all Bahraini phones late last week, announced that social media users living in the country who “follow the accounts which incite sedition you will be prosecuted”.
Bahrain Ministry of Interior is threatening whoever resides in #Bahrain: “if you FOLLOW the accounts which incite sedition you will be prosecuted”
P.S. any critical voice or anyone who highlights the violations & abuses in the kingdom is convicted of inciting hatred & sedition. pic.twitter.com/JZtXdO79UB
— Fatima Yazbek (@FatimaYazbek1) May 31, 2019
The message was also backed up by a tweet from the Ministry of Interior’s official account, stating on Thursday that “those who follow inciting accounts that promote sedition and circulate their posts will be held legally accountable,” which was then followed by a further series of tweets on Saturday claiming that countering such accounts is “a national duty” in order to “protect the security and safety of the nation.”
Anti-cybercrime: countering inciting social media accounts that promote sedition is a national duty and part of the community partnership to protect the security and safety of the nation.
— Ministry of Interior (@moi_bahrain) June 1, 2019
The blacklisted accounts, stated the Ministry, are run by dissidents – or “fugitives” – in Iran, Qatar, Iraq and various European countries who have been have been “executing a systematic plan to tarnish the image of Bahrain and its people.”
These recent tweets by the Bahraini government come amid a crackdown on political dissent by online voices and accounts in recent years, particularly following the Arab Spring protests in 2011 which were unsuccessful in the small Gulf Kingdom after its neighbouring ally Saudi Arabia sent troops to help crush protests.
Hundreds of protesters and activists have been imprisoned, at times in mass trials, and even stripped of their nationality, with the main opposition parties in the country having been banned. Human rights groups have also accused Bahraini authorities of inflicting torture in detention.
Furthermore, many opposition figures who did escape imprisonment have fled abroad since the protests, and it is these figures that have recently been targeted by the authorities through online means. The targeting has been part of a campaign since mid-May, which has sought to blacklist and take legal steps against dissenters running Twitter accounts from regional and European countries