We Bahrainis are blessed to live in a state where freedom of expression is enshrined into the Constitution. In 2011 our King formally forgave and pardoned all those who had verbally attacked him during the unrest. This is an example which we should be proud of and which should guide our own behaviour as responsible and loyal citizens.
That is why we should be concerned about the arrest of Yaqoub Al-Slaise, the prominent and popular member of the Al-Fateh Youth Coalition on 31 September. It is understood that this arrest followed a complaint raised by a journalist against Yaqoub related to Tweets he made many months ago regarding participation of the Bahrain Defence Force in elections.
As we go into the parliamentary elections period, it is important that Bahrainis feel empowered to have sincere and open debates about political issues regarding their choice of candidates, as is their right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Citizens for Bahrain has spoken out on several occasions against those abusing freedom of expression to spread sectarian hatred and incite violence. We reject hate speech against any religious sect and support the State’s right to take action against those guilty of this crime.
However, freedom of expression, exercised in a peaceful manner with Bahrain’s best interests at heart should be protected and respected. This should be true even if we strongly disagree with the views being expressed.
We hope that the complaint made against Yaqoub Al-Slaise will be dealt with swiftly and that he and others found to be doing no more than peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech will be dealt with fairly.