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The Struggle for Information: Revelations on Mercenaries, Sectarian Agitation, and Demographic Engineering in Bahrain

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by Nazgol Kafai and Ala'a Shehabi

"No person may be punished on national security grounds for disclosure of information if (1) the disclosure does not actually harm and is not likely to harm a legitimate national security interest, or (2) the public interest in knowing the information outweighs the harm from disclosure."[1]

While controversy and interest rage around the treasure trove of information that Edward Snowden has leaked over the last year in order to expose the extent of US and British government surveillance, silence has marked past and recent revelations of the intrusion of the Bahraini regime into the daily lives of citizens and the socially destructive policies designed to ensure the survival of the monarchy. Over the past decade, conscientious people, both Bahraini and non-Bahraini, have taken on the Khalifa regime by revealing its darkest secrets. From exposing sophisticated schemes for sectarian agitation to uncovering the massive procurement of arms for repressive purposes, these revelations served both to confirm a perceived political reality and to reveal a ruthless system of violence and conspiratorial disciplinary tactics heretofore unimaginable. Overall, these leaks have facilitated a form of public accountability, with the predictable regime response being the “erasure of knowledge” rather than the redress of problems.

The individual acts of dissidence are thus critical events that highlight the relationship between censorship, knowledge, and the ability to mobilize for progressive change, as well as the “divide and rule” policy that centers on the instrumental use of sectarianism. The fundamental feature of this relationship is the power of regime mechanisms to foreclose citizen knowledge as a way of producing acquiescence and the limits of that power. While the Bahraini regime has invested significant amounts of oil rents in constructing mechanisms of censorship and knowledge suppression, these instruments have proven increasingly ineffective. New methods of information dissemination via the Internet and telecommunications networks have given activists, concerned government officials, and others the potential to “leak” and publish their information outside the strictly controlled state media. While the information that these whistleblowers have brought to light is inherently important, the act of unauthorized disclosure—by demonstrating the severely impaired ability of the Bahraini state to maintain its monopoly on information—has irreparably damaged the illusion of state omnipotence and thus encouraged further acts of dissent.

Continue reading on http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/17912/the-struggle-for-information_revelations-on-mercen

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