Penalties for directing abuse on social media in the Kingdom of Bahrain

Internet abuse and harassment is one of the most illegal and immoral acts that have emerged recently. They seem impossible to avoid, as technological development has enabled many behaviors to move from the real world to the Internet. Almost everything we used to do in the world without internet we can now do it online. Face-to-face conversations don’t have to be done now as we have chat apps. It has become easier to buy things online than to find what we need in retail stores. There is no longer an essential need for offices because we can do our work from anywhere in the world. Even board meetings are now taking place online. There is no doubt that technology has made communication easier, and thus multitasking has become much easier.

However, it is not just good behaviors that have been transmitted via the Internet, harassment and abuse have also. Over time, many people always try to annoy and abuse other people, so there is no wonder that once they have the necessary tools on the Internet that can be used to direct the abuse, they will never hesitate to benefit from it. People who want to harass someone will do so, either online or offline. Modern technology is not the reason they do this, but it is a tool for doing it.

When it comes to social media abuse in the Kingdom of Bahrain, to understand how laws deal with these problems, you must first understand the wider social context. The Bahraini community values ​​a highly personal and family reputation. It is the capital of every man, woman and family, so spreading false or private information on the Internet could land you in jail. And unlike many countries, especially countries of the Western world, in which defamation and insult are no longer considered a crime, the Kingdom of Bahrain still considers such actions a crime and punishes them severely.

What is abuse on social media

Social media abuse can take many forms. It can be anything that is inherently responsible that happens on the Internet. From a psychological and ethical perspective, it is a behavior intended to annoy and anger the target person. As for the legal point of view, it says that online abuse is aimed at harassing and threatening the victim.

The most common types of abuse on social media include:

–         Defamation on social media. It is spreading false information about someone on the Internet. Far from being false, the information can be irritating and anger the target. Examples of defamation include spreading false information that a person has committed a crime or any other wrong act, with the aim of making that person feel bad by destroying their reputation, whether in front of family, friends, or society.

–         Posting private details on social media. Unlike defamatory content, posting private details of a person’s life includes publishing information that is inherently correct, but without that person’s consent. This information could be about family affairs, relationships with friends, an illness that he wants to keep out of the public, or any other circumstances of a personal nature that this person wants to keep away from the eyes and ears of the public.

–         Posting photos of people without their consent. This abuse comes in many forms. This could be by posting pictures with content that is shameful to the person or tagging him with a picture with shameful content, or modifying or any other way to tamper with the content of the image with the intention of insulting the person, etc. Modern IT tools offer a wide range of possibilities when it comes to the manipulation and misuse of graphic content such as images.

However, posting generally offensive images does not need to be illegal. Sometimes this happens in closed groups on Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp conversations, or other closed spaces on the Internet. In the event that two people view the photo, it is considered a case of abuse on social media.

–         Hate speech. Hate speech includes speech intended to promote hatred of a particular group based on age, gender, race, religion, nationality, political opinions, or any other similar criteria. Those who do such hate speech do so with the intention of making other people hate the group they oppose.

–         Cyberbullying. All the above behaviors, along with any other behavior intended to annoy, threaten, or shame someone on social media is called cyberbullying. It includes a wide range of behaviors that align with the standards mentioned above.

How can it be legalized?

The abuse and violation have been legalized long ago, and despite the spread of abuse on social media sites, the nature of abuse with insulting or insulting facilitated the way for the issuance of legislation under local and international laws. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 guarantees many rights, including human dignity and privacy, as well as the Charter affirmed The Arab League for Human Rights regards these rights, and the Bahraini Penal Code considers conducts that violate these rights as crimes. The Bahraini Penal Code of 1976 included several provisions that prohibit the aforementioned behavior that takes place on the Internet. It is forbidden to abuse in general, whether this abuse takes place on the Internet or outside it, and legal measures are taken against the criminal. Of course, social media abuse is not criminalized in the same way, so we need to search the penal code for specific topics to find out what forms of abuse on social media are prohibited and in what form.

While reading the Bahraini Penal Code of 1976, you notice that the fame of some individuals, families, and organizations has created a veil that protects them from punishment and makes the authorities defend them desperately with harsher penalties compared to their peers in other countries. Your eyes are the most forms of abuse on social media:

–         It is prohibited to post any false information about another person on social media or any other means of publication that could harm his honor if he is not charged, and it is prohibited to post any false information to any civil employee for the purpose of obtaining something illegally, and the penalty for that will be more than imprisonment. Two years and a fine of not less than 100 BD.

–         It is prohibited to falsely accuse a person of committing a crime or any sin that exposes him to insulting on social media or any other means of communication.

–         It is forbidden to insult the Emir of the country, the country’s flag or slogan, or you will be punished with imprisonment.

–         It is prohibited to insult the National Council of the country, the army, the courts, the authorities, or any legislative institutions, online or offline, and the penalty for that will be more than two years’ imprisonment and a fine of more than one hundred Bahraini dinars.

–           It is prohibited to use social media or any other means of communication to insult any foreign country or any organizations on the land of Bahrain, its president or representative, and the penalty will be imprisonment for more than two years and a fine of more than one hundred Bahraini dinars.

–         You should not use social media to offend any of the recognized religious groups or make fun of their rituals. You should not distort their texts in a way that changes its meaning in order to make fun of their teachings and principles. Penalties may reach one year in prison or a fine of 100 Bahraini dinars.

–         You should not post on social media any information about another person’s private and family life. This prohibition includes posting photos of people who do not want to be posted on social media, tagging people in pictures in which they do not want to be tagged, posting private and family affairs in status updates and comments, spreading hate about someone, and any similar behaviors. If you do any of this, you risk spending up to six months in prison and a fine of up to fifty Bahraini dinars.

–         You must not post content on social media that is contrary to public morals. If you attack another person’s privacy with such content, you will also violate this rule. You will face a prison sentence of up to two years and fines of up to two hundred Bahraini dinars.

–          You shouldn’t annoy anyone on social media. Whether you do so online or offline, threatening another person on social media in Bahrain means a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to one hundred Bahraini dinars.

–         And while these are the most common social media behaviors that can get you jailed or fined in Bahrain, keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the mistakes that might get you in trouble there. And always make sure you are nice and respectful to others to avoid committing a crime.

What happens if I violate the laws?

–         Violating these laws will inevitably result in prosecution for you. For some crimes, it is necessary for the person who has been abused to press charges against you, and to others as well, such as insulting the Emir and posting immoral content, and make sure that the Public Prosecution office will initiate an operation against you as soon as you click the publish button. Call a lawyer in such a situation. And since the punishments are serious, having a lawyer by your side can make the difference between ending up in jail or maintaining your freedom.

What happens if you are the victim?

–         If someone abuses you on social media by spreading false information about you, insulting you in any way, or posting pictures of you that you want to keep off the internet, you will have to contact the law enforcement authorities about your problem. You must tell them that you feel offended or threatened by someone else’s actions and want to take legal action against these actions. According to the Bahraini criminal procedure law, you or your lawyer are required to file a written or verbal complaint with the public prosecutor or police officer.

–         Also, in such situations, it is wise to contact a lawyer. You can also do this yourself, but it will be easiest to take all the right steps by having professional legal advice at your side.

Key recommendations

–         It is important to understand that reputation and honor are very important to all people in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and therefore harming them is strictly punished. So make sure you treat people with respect while using social media. Do not offend them in any way otherwise you risk ending up in prison. Avoid spreading false information about them, avoid spreading facts about personal and family matters, and you will be fine.

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