Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Bahrain Press Association (BPA) issued in May its annual report for 2018 entitled "Bahrain, the Kingdom of Closed Doors".
"The blockade of the social media spheres, which became deserted spaces, continues as tweeters resort to hiding behind the pseudonyms and allegory in an environment where expressing critical views is a risk," the Association said in its report.
The king's statements on Monday (May 20, 2019), during meetings with delegations from different governorates, made things even worse and more dangerous, as he gave the green light to the Interior Ministry to tighten its grip on the narrow space where citizens are free to express their opinions and objections.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa directed the security agencies to be strict when dealing with cases of misuse of social media outlets, BNA reported.
During his meeting with citizens from different governorates, the King called for "steering clear from the misuse of social media, which should be used for the country's interest as well as the people's."
These statements are the culmination of harsh measures taken against a number of tweeters, who do not oppose the government, such as journalist Ibrahim Al-Sheikh, who was arrested in April and then released quickly after the prime minister interceded for him, and then his column in the Gulf News newspaper disappeared and he stopped writing, as well as former Brotherhood MP Mohammed Khaled, who appeared in a video following his release after being detained for two days, announcing that he shut down his Twitter account.
After the Arad land plot issue, a number of pro-government tweeters, who expressed their rejection of the conversion of state-owned land to private ownership, transferring it to the son of the Royal Court Minister, were summoned. After the mall project to be built on the land plot was stopped, lawyer Abdullah Hashem, who led the war against the project of Royal Court Minister's son, was arrested and hasn't been released yet.
Last April, former MP Ali Al-Ashiri announced that he received a phone call from Al-Muharraq security directorate telling him that an alternative penalty had to be implemented concerning the two-week jail sentence issued against him over a tweet he sent on his Twitter account in which he announced boycotting the 2018 parliamentary elections.
The London-based BPA documented last year about 86 cases that represent alleged violations of media freedoms and public freedoms such as rights of opinion and expression. These violations included 21 judicial rulings, 32 interrogations, some of which involved torture, 24 arrests and 9 cases of obstruction of work.
The atmosphere created by the King's directives to the security agencies is similar to the spirit of repression that prevailed during the "National Safety" period in 2011, and the accompanying killings as a result of torture involving a number of citizens. In October of last year, the Washington Post published the latest article written by Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi under the title "What the Arab world needs is free expression".
Now, months after Khashoggi's death, freedom of expression in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, including Bahrain, is still worse than one can imagine, and it is decreasing day by day, to the extent that the expression of opinion has become a real threat to one's life and livelihood.