By Alaphia Zoyab, Online Communities Officer
On Friday morning the online team at Amnesty International was in for a pleasant surprise.
At work we have our Amnesty website open on our computers throughout the day and are very familiar with trends on the number of people who sign our web petitions.
That’s why when we posted a petition addressed to the King of Bahrain on Thursday afternoon we were amazed to see that in less than 24 hours nearly 13,000 people had signed on. Wow.
But how did that happen?
We spoke to people in Bahrain and discovered that human rights organizations there are struggling to counter the Twitter and Facebook propaganda generated by pro-government forces.
So when we posted our petition, human rights organizations and activists were quick to spread the word. We believe it is a public call from a credible organization known for the quality of its research, supporting the same human rights demands they are fighting for.
Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights posted the petition on its website. He said, “Social media is something that all human rights activists should use. The old classical techniques are not as effective anymore in Bahrain.”
He added, “The Bahraini government is the smartest in the region when it comes to using social media. They haven’t blocked the internet because they and their kids and families use it too. But they’ve created hundreds and thousands of accounts from which they post false information and photos.”
This view is echoed by Mohammed Al Maskati, President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights. He said, “People online are spreading a lot of lies and attacking groups like ours. It is a cyber fight over information but our cyber activists are heroes.”
People in Bahrain are definitely looking for strength in numbers for their human rights demands through any online support they can get, so please do sign this petition.
Amnesty International uses web petitions to gather signatures from our members and supporters which we then deliver to governments to demand change. Rest assured however that we are always careful to protect the identities of the signatories.
Amnesty International’s expert on Bahrain will shortly be travelling to the country where we will seek to meet the authorities to let them know that thousands of you from around the world care and are carefully watching what happens in Bahrain.
At our end, we’ll be eagerly checking our website to watch your support grow.
Update 4-4-11: The total number of actions taken was 49, 867.