Internet pioneer Ali Abdulemam was arrested after receiving an order to appear before the National Security Apparatus.
(BCHR/IFEX) – 5 September 2010 – BCHR calls on all concerned individuals to protest the arrest of Bahraini internet pioneer Ali Abdulemam.
Abdulemam is a blogger and a Global Voices Advocacy author and founder of Bahrain’s popular BahrainOnline forum. He is a pioneer among Arab online activists, using the internet to advocate for peaceful reform. He inspired many young Bahrainis and Arabs to use the internet to express themselves and engage in spirited debate. He has been active in international workshops and conferences on the topics of freedom of expression and the Bahraini media environment. Abdulemam is married with three children, two twin baby girls and a boy.
Abdulemam was arrested on 4 September 2010 by the Bahraini authorities amidst a major crackdown on the country’s opposition for allegedly spreading “false news” on the BahrainOnline.org portal. A few hours before the arrest, he received a call from the National Security Apparatus (NSA) asking him to present himself in front of the NSA at 9 p.m. He posted this news to all his friends on his Facebook page, who later learned from the Bahrain News agency that he had been arrested. The authorities claimed that he was trying to flee.
Abdulemam started BahrainOnline in 1999. He managed and maintained the forum until the website became #1 in Bahrain with over 100,000 daily hits and thousands of members, even though it was blocked for most of the time from 1999 until 5 September 2010. On the afternoon of 5 September, BahrainOnline was shut down for good, by the authorities.
There are strong reasons to believe Abdulemam has been under great pressure and has possibly been tortured to disclose the passwords of the website’s host. Terrifying testimonies have spread about torture since the security crackdown started on 13 August.
It is also believed that by the government taking control over BahrainOnline, many of the users and contributors to that online forum are now at risk of being exposed, hunted and then arrested by the authorities for publishing oppositional views. There are indications that the crackdown which first targeted ground activists is now directed towards online activists.
It is worth noting that this is not the first time Abdulemam has been arrested for running BahrainOnline. On 27 February 2005 he was arrested along with two other moderators by the Bahraini authorities because of messages posted on BahrainOnline that were critical of the ruling regime. He was detained for over a month and then released.
BCHR urges all concerned individuals and organisations to call for Abdulemam’s immediate release and demand that the authorities stop the attacks on Bahraini bloggers and activists.