Bahrain’s Information Affairs Agency has had the power to censor websites since 2002. Posting content that criticizes Islam or the king, or incites violence or the overthrow of the government, is punishable by up to five years in prison. The government’s control of the Internet is facilitated by its majority shareholding in the kingdom’s leading Internet Service Provider, Batelco, which monitors and filters traffic. Officials cite the need to protect the public from pornography but many sites are targeted for their political content. Since the pro-democracy demonstrations of February 2011, news sites such as Bahrain Mirror and the daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi have been banned for posting articles critical of the government. Online censorship includes going after dissidents. Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, blogger Ghada Jamsheer and Maryam Al-Khawaja, co-president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, were all arrested in connection with online posts at the end of 2014.
Bahrain is ranked #163 over 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.