Bloggers in Peril

In the United States the discourse about bloggers has mostly concerned whether they pose a risk to traditional media. In some other countries, the authorities apparently are worried that bloggers pose a threat to government control.

The blogger community is already abuzz over the cases of several Iranian bloggers—Arash Sigarchi, who has been sentenced to 14 years in prison; Mojtaba Saminejad, who is apparently in jail awaiting trial; and Mohamad Reza Nasab Abdolahi, who has been sentenced to six months behind bars, reportedly for insulting the country's leaders.

It's not that surprising that Iran—a member of Dubya's "axis of evil," where Human Rights Watch says the authorities "systematically suppress freedom of expression and opinion"—would put the squeeze on bloggers.

But now, according to the Committee to Protect Bloggers, another Middle Eastern country—this one a U.S. ally—has cracked down on a blog: Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam was taken in for questioning on Sunday. According to the blog Babbling Bahrainia, Abdulemam's Bahrainonline.org "is the beacon of free speech for those who manage to find a proxy to get in from Bahrain, voicing highly critical opinions of the government."

The Defense Department reports that as of September 30, 2004, the U.S. military has 1,700 personnel (see the stats here, in pdf) in Bahrain, mostly from the Navy (It's the HQ for the 5th Fleet). That makes the tiny country the biggest U.S. base in the Middle East next to Iraq.

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