Behind the Information Curtain
June 14, 2011 2:12 AM   Subscribe

Pro-government newspaper Gulf News reports that five Emirati bloggers go on trial today behind closed doors. While blogging has been on the rise in the UAE, internet access is tightly controlled by state-run Etisalat, many sites, including Flickr Groups and lists of blogs, blocked by the Etisalat firewall.
posted by bardophile (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"These have been the first signs of intolerance shown by the authorities against demands for more significant reforms in the UAE, which until now has not been subject to the internal turmoil experienced by many other countries in the region."
posted by bardophile at 2:17 AM on June 14, 2011

How come its the bloggers that didn't do anything douchey that get persecuted?

I'd like to see that American asshole who faked being "a gay girl in damascus" get prosecuted. That wouldn't be persecution...that would just be in keeping with good taste.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:28 AM on June 14, 2011

posted by bardophile at 3:14 AM on June 14, 2011

Reporters without Borders lists the UAE is a country under surveilllance.
Here is 2009 report from OpenNet Initiative.
posted by adamvasco at 3:14 AM on June 14, 2011

Could anyone who lives in the Emirates give us an idea of people's happiness or unhappiness with the system of government as discussed in private?
posted by Paquda at 8:28 AM on June 14, 2011

"People" is too broad a term when you're talking about the UAE (or perhaps any country?). the expat population is somewhere between 70 and 80% of the total population. So, only one fifth of the population is a citizen. How 'people' feel about the government is deeply affected by whether they are citizens or not. I wouldn't presume to have any clue as to how Emirati nationals feel about their government. Society is pretty stratified. Us lowly South Asians don't end up spending a lot of time with Emiratis.
posted by bardophile at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2011

Thanks Bardophile.
posted by Paquda at 9:02 AM on June 14, 2011

I couldn't figure out from the FPP links, what these five are meant to have done wrong (other than the nebulous 'endangering the state').

Does anyone with knowledge of the region know a precedent here? I know it's speculation until we hear the charges but would it be like Bo Xilai, the Chinese blogger who was sentenced to a year of hard labor for calling a government official's policies shit, or were these Emiratis like, giving the launch codes to the general public?
posted by andromache at 9:07 AM on June 14, 2011

"The details and reasons for the arrests have not yet been communicated. Nasser Bin Gait is a financial analyst and university lecturer, while Fahad Salem Al Shehi is a well-known blogger, and was arrested in the emirate of Ajman, north of Dubai. On Friday Mohammad al Mansour was also arrested, one of the 130 scholars and activists who signed a petition addressed to Sheikh Khalifa calling for electoral suffrage and a Parliament with actual legislative powers."
From the link in my earlier comment

People were arrested for calling for electoral reform, i.e. they think the UAE should have elections. I don't know if these are the same people.
posted by bardophile at 10:18 AM on June 14, 2011

I couldn't figure out from the FPP links, what these five are meant to have done wrong (other than the nebulous 'endangering the state').

Calling for the elected Federal National Council to have more power and for the franchise to be expanded. At the moment, only a small percentage of Emiratis chosen by a non-transparent procedure is eligible to vote in any given election.

I actually know quite a few Emiratis, and the government is widely popular. Most people have little interest in seeing changes to the way the country is run. As Bardophile says, 80% of the population are expats, and obviously we have even less interest.
posted by atrazine at 10:22 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I found this bit of insight about blogging / social networks and UAE published in February - though not about these particular individuals
UAE bloggers can face criminal charges
posted by adamvasco at 1:56 AM on June 15, 2011

To be clear, things are carefully structured to ensure that expats remain uninterested. There is no straightforward route to acquiring citizenship. I believe it's possible for a woman to get it by marrying an Emirati man, but not vice versa. Expats can only own property in a limited number of areas. The legal rights of an expat resident are significantly different from a locals. Even if you've worked all your life in the UAE, retiring there is not really an option. There are exceptions to all of these, but pretty much at the sheikh's pleasure. When you aren't permitted to form permanent legal ties, you're not really likely to be committed enough to the system to work for reform.
posted by bardophile at 10:06 PM on June 15, 2011

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