Twitter: Social or Criminal?

On Monday, a teacher, Huda al Ajmi, was sentenced to 11 years in prison because of postings that she had previously written on Twitter. One of many posts insulted the Gulf nation’s ruler and others encouraged his overthrow. Authorities are said to be increasingly cracking down on perceived dissent on social media. Surprisingly, dozens of people across the Western-backed Gulf states have been sentenced to jail time for Twitter and blog posts in the past year. This comes amid increasing tightening of internet freedom laws across the Gulf region, despite the country priding itself on being  generally more liberal than its neighbors.

The charge for insulting the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, whom the constitution describes as ‘immune and inviolable’, alone,  carries one year. The other terms were both five years, given for encouraging a rebellion against the regime and for breaking the law on public discussions.

As for the Gulf Arab region as a whole, it has also been seen as collectively acting to limit internet freedoms. The measures many regions have taken include restricting content on social media sites, making  “offending” posts punishable by extensive jail sentences.

Aside from Kuwait: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have all tightened controls on Internet freedoms  recently, targeting social media and phone applications alike in their effort to stifle freedom of speech.   Across the Gulf, dozens of journalists and social media users have been arrested since the beginning of the year for being in violation of national laws. Kuwait has arrested at least six people since the beginning of 2013.

Of all the Arab states in the region, Kuwait has suffered the  least amount of anti-government violence and uprisings, yet the number of people speaking out over Facebook and Twitter and being arrested for it is no lower than elsewhere.

Do you think handing down these harsh sentences goes against freedom of speech? Is 11 years too harsh for a teacher merely expressing her views on her own government? What sentence, if any, would be appropriate for a so-called “crime” like this?

Article Source: RT

Picture Source: Google

2 comments

  1. As Americans, we tend to forget that our 1st amednment rights are very unique, even after almost 225 years. Even so, they are limited. The U.S. has seen recent cases of citizens using Facebook and Twitter to post death threats against officals, most notably President Obama, and having federal charges levied against them. There is a variable line between critque and protest, necessary for any democracy to run, and threats of physical violence.
    Twitter has allowed people all over the world to post their thoughts in 140 characters, in seconds. This has led to the “Arab Spring,” amd the downfall of many leaders/dictators in the region. This rapid commenting has obviously scared leaders in other Gulf nations to crack down on dissent. Those nations combine religion and government to the point where the leader is “immune and inviolable,” a phrase even the most ardent supporter of Obama, Merkel or even Putin would not use.
    It is unfortunate that these leaders feel the need to put their citizens in jail for years for just expressing their opinion. What they don’t realize, however, is they are creating symbols of the oppression which instead create more people ready to critique and call for uprising.

  2. I agree with Mr. Paliotta that even our 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech is limited but I do not think that Huda Al Ajmi’s comment would fall into the category of unprotected speech (even though I do not know the exact language used in the Tweet). To state a general opinion that a government should be overthrown is not a specific enough “threat” to warrant charges being brought against an individual in comparison to death threats against individual members of the government, as Mr. Paliotta noted. But, as Mr. Paliotta pointed out, the Kuwaiti government is deeply rooted in religion. I am not saying I support Kuwait’s restrictive laws; just that their religious foundation is the reason for more restrictive laws.

    One point I do agree with Mr. Paliotta on is that such restrictions are oppressive and will only add fuel to the fire, for lack of a better phrase, when in today’s day and age there are an unlimited number of social media outlets in which people can state their opinions about their government.

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