Activists in Bahrain and Kuwait are protesting governments move to crack down on Twitter users who take advantage of the platform to broadcast politically extreme and religiously offensive messages.
Twitter has been adopted by many activists in the conservative Gulf States as a means of expressing their dissatisfaction with the current leadership and their unchallenged authority.
While attempts to censor the rapidly growing social media trends have had varying degrees of success, arrests and persecution have become common forms of enforcement for those who violate the dictatorship of the ruling monarchies.
Human Rights Watch expressed complete disapproval over government detaining individuals for broadcasting ant-religious and anti-government statements, but long jail terms and harsh punishments have become a fixture of the increasingly hostile political environment.
In one case, the Kuwaiti law enforcement handed down a ten year prison sentence to a man who criticized the government and insulted the kings of Saudi Arabia and Prophet Mohammed.
Most recently, the Human Right Watch demanded the release of activist Nabeel Rajab, who was imprisoned/detained for tweeting out a demand that the prime minister step down from his position.
Huge political campaigns and protestor support actions are being organized in the Gulf States by the public and various underground leaders on Twitter. Many of the top tweets are from clerics loyal to Mohamed al-Arefe, a telegenic, conservative Saudi Arabian Islamic scholar, who has grown in popularity from 650,000 followers to 1.8 million followers in just one year.
Dima Khatib, who has gained fame as one of the region’s biggest Twitter voices in the Arab uprisings, and a correspondent for Qatar’s Al Jazeera, is vocal on the crucial role Twitter has played in the movement.
Dima Khatib comments on the role of Twitter in the Arab uprising:
“Twitter has contributed to an expansion of freedom of expression,”
“But things have cracked wide open – we still don’t know how to respect other points of view yet.”
For more information on the crack down in the Middle East and North Africa, follow this link to FT.com’s full coverage of the events. Look for more information coming out of these social media protests as Human Rights Watch fights for the peoples freedom of speech in the weeks to come.
(Lead image courtesy of Article.wn.Com)