Global Freedom of Expression

Bahrain v. Maaraj

On Appeal Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    April 8, 2014
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment, Criminal Sanctions
  • Region & Country
    Bahrain, Middle East and North Africa
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation
  • Tags
    Blog, Internet, Criminal Defamation, Political / philosophical opinion, Content-Based Restriction

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The First Minor Criminal Court of Bahrain found the blogger Ali Maaraj guilty of insulting the King and abusing information technology. The Court sentenced him to 30 months in prison. Maaraj posted a series of blogs, in which he talked about anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain.  In his belongs, he also criticized the country’s monarchy. 


Ali Maaraj, a Bahraini blogger, posted articles on Luluwa Awel blog about anti-government demonstrations, which erupted in 2011. He also criticized Bahrain’s monarchy.

On January 7, 2014, government forces arrested Maaraj and seized his computer and other personal belongings.  The government charged him for crimes of insulting the king and abusing information technology. According to a new law passed in February 2014, “any person who offends in public the Monarch of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the flag or the national emblem,” may receive a prison sentence up to seven years and a fine up to $26,500.

Decision Overview

On April 8, 2014, the First Minor Criminal Court of Bahrain found Maaraj guilty of insulting the King and abusing information technology. Under Article 214 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, persons who offend the Monarch of the Kingdom of Bahrain can face imprisonment. The application of this law has particularly been exercised in recent cases concerning social media.

The prosecutor in this case stated that Maaraj’s blogging activities had “caused trouble to other people as a result of improper handling of information technology.” [1] The Court without allowing the defense witnesses to testify, sentenced Maaraj to six months in prison for misusing information technology and two years of imprisonment for “insulting the King.” [2]

[1] Reporters Without Borders, Bahrain-Blogger Gets Jail Time for Misusing Information Technology, (Apr. 11, 2014),

[2] Reporters Without Borders, Bahrain-Blogger Gets Jail Time for Misusing Information Technology, (Apr. 11, 2014),

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The decision impressibly limits the freedom of expression by imposing criminal sanction on the right of bloggers and journalists to publicly question the government officials. 

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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