“This pocket of anarchy is a byproduct of half-hearted democracy”

NEIL MacFARQUHAR’s piece in the NY Times brought to mind some recent discussions I’ve been in regargind credibility on the Internet:

In the old days, with its monopoly over television and radio and the ability to shut down newspapers, the Khalifa dynasty would have had less trouble controlling the debate. Now, with the Internet and satellite television outside its reach, the government resorts to tactics like tossing Mr. Abdulemam and two of his fellow Web masters into jail for a couple of weeks, as it did last year…

The easiest way to ensure a large turnout for any demonstration, the leader of the main Shiite opposition group said, is to post the announcement for it on BahrainOnline….”If something happens anywhere in Bahrain, usually within five minutes maximum something about it is happening on my site,” Mr. Abdulemam said.

Still, the site’s Web masters are often criticized for creating a “tabloid” that spreads rumors and demeans those considered enemies. Ghada Jamsheer, a women’s rights advocate who criticized the Shiite clergy for opposing a proposed law that would give more defined divorce rights to women, said her face was pasted onto a naked body.

Mr. Abdulemam said his site was blamed for trash posted on any site in Bahrain, and his Web masters, monitoring as many as 1,000 posts a day, remove anything that promotes violence. He laughs when he recalls his arrest and how little his interrogators knew about how the Internet works, blaming him for the content of every posting.

Mansour Jamri, editor of a daily newspaper, Wasat, and the son of a famous Shiite opposition cleric, notes that many of those writing on the Web sites are very young.

“If you don’t shout with them you are a corrupt person, you are basically a dog used by the government,” said Mr. Jamri, who has been portrayed as just that. “This pocket of anarchy is a byproduct of half-hearted democracy,” Mr. Jamri said.

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