By Lara Setrakian
Bahrain arrested four people for defaming the island’s king on Twitter, saying they’ll face “urgent trial” in criminal court.
Criticizing Bahrain’s ruling family is punishable offense, but the extension to Twitter is a new twist, a response to the uprising in Bahrain that’s challenged the ruling regime in the streets and on social media.
The Arab Spring protests were partly sparked online. In Bahrain, it started with calls for a day of protests under the Twitter hashtag #Feb14, the day in 2011 that became known as the start of Bahrain’s would-be revolution.
Since then Twitter has become a battleground of perspectives. People in that country arguing for and against the ruling royal family, while protests and clashes have continued in parts of the small island country. They’ve brought stability in the country into question, which is a key concern for the U.S. Washington considers Bahrain’s rulers key strategic allies, hosts of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
Back on Twitter, you’ll also find the Bahraini government spreading its message. On Thursday its parliament passed a decree urging all officials to open their own Twitter accounts, in order to feel closer to the people.