From Global Voices Online:
Netizen Report: Activist Repression and Electronic Witch Hunts in Bahrain
24 September 2014 20:29 GMT
Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week’s report begins in Bahrain, where human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja awaits trial for allegedly attacking a police officer. The 27-year-old co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights was arrested at the end of August upon arriving in Bahrain to visit her father, prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja who has been in prison since 2011.
Both activists played key roles in organizing mass demonstrations of the February 14 movement that shook the island nation in that same year. As in Tunisia and Egypt, online activists and social media users played a key role in mobilizing protests and were thus a primary target for authorities seeking to quell the unrest.
Surveillance of online platforms of mobile messaging apps has become a hallmark of the Bahraini government’s repressive measures against pro-democracy activists like the Al Khawajas. Researchers at NGO Bahrain Watch have uncovered the government’s use of malicious spyware to track activists on social media, a practice that has led to numerous arrests over the last two years. Several weeks before Al Khawaja’s detention, prominent Twitter activist @Takrooz was arrested upon arrival in the country and accused of using social media to “incite hatred against the regime.”
Although free from prison, Maryam now awaits trial, expected to begin October 1. In the meantime, the activist, who resides in Denmark, has been banned from travel.