Bahrain threatens jail for Twitter, Facebook protest calls

Gulf state warns residents will be punished for using social media to incite rallies

Bahrain residents caught posting messages on the internet and social networking sites in a bid to rally support for protests in the Gulf state will be punished, the Interior Ministry said.

Residents found urging members of the public to take part in “rallies and engage in acts of violence and sabotage” are breaking the law, state news agency BNA reported on Thursday.

“The mere fact of posting such instigative calls is a penal crime punishable by the law,” the Interior Ministry said.

“The law on public rallies stipulates fines and jail terms, in addition to other penalties.”

The news follows days after authorities in the Gulf state warned anti-government protestors they could lose their driving licenses for up to one year if they carried out threats to create massive traffic jams to disrupt the elections.

Bahrain in March imposed martial law and called in troops from its Gulf neighbours in a bid to quell weeks of unrest amid mass pro-reform demonstrations.

UAE authorities last month said residents caught using social media to insult the Gulf state’s rulers or spread malicious rumours could face up to ten years in jail.

False news spread by Twitter, Facebook, or using BlackBerry’s BBM messenger service risked harming UAE society and would be dealt with severely, said Col. Abbulrahim bin Shafi, the director of Dubai Police’s anti-organised crime unit.
“Spreading rumours or disclosing false information and news [that] threatens the public security or causes panic among the people…will be a crime [even] if it is through email, BlackBerry or any type of tool that spreads the information,” he told Arabian Business.

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