Human Rights and the Digital Sphere in Bahrain, 2010-2020

The power and influence of the digital sphere is increasingly recognised, and more so than ever in light of the global covid-19 pandemic. This is reflected by the exponential growth in internet users, skyrocketing to over 60% of our global population in June 2020, compared to a mere 0.4% in 1995. The digital sphere has thus become a crucial sector of human life and expression, which, like other societal sectors, makes it subject to rights and regulations. However, this new sector with growing significance, often outpacing legislative development, has been a source of abuse, particularly under authoritarian regimes which control and utilise it for the suppression of rights within and beyond the digital sphere. This report is concerned with the case of Bahrain between 2010 and 2020, and the way its government has breached human rights within and through the digital sphere. In doing so, the report first contextualises Bahrain and its virtual sphere. It then demonstrates governmental breaches of human rights in the Bahraini digital sphere, including the control and suppression of freedom of speech online, various forms of online censorship, and governmental utilisation of digital strategies to further its authoritarian agenda. The ambition of this report is to elucidate the state of human rights in the Bahraini digital sphere, and encourage action to be taken against both violations and restrictions to those ever-increasingly important human rights.

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