WEBMASTERS will not be hounded into registering their sites with the Information Ministry, authorities said yesterday.
Information Under-Secretary Mahmood Al Mahmood said although the rules state that Bahrain websites must be registered with the ministry, it will not be actively pursuing them.
"Our goal is to encourage people to follow the legal way and a large number of websites have already registered. But we will not be actively pursuing all websites that are not registered," he said.
"It's the same as registering a car. If your car is not registered and no one hears about it, then you won't get into any trouble. But if the authorities hear about it, then you could."
A six-month campaign has been launched to register all Bahraini websites.
Webmasters face similar laws to newspapers related to libel, public decency and ethics. Just as a newspaper editor-in-chief is held responsible for what he publishes, so will a webmaster.
Ministry printing and publishing director Jamal Dawood said the ministry has an application form that people can pick up and fill.
"They will be issued with a registration number which they should put on their home page."
Mr Dawood said no one would face prosecution merely for failing to register. He said registration was in the webmasters' own good.
"We cannot protect people's intellectual property rights without having them registered."
Mr Dawood said people cannot register online at the moment because his directorate doesn't have a website. For more information, he said people can call 17717525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, the ministry's new policies were blasted by Bahrain's first web blogger Mahmood Al Yousif who said if they weren't going to be enforced properly, they are meaningless.
"This means that the law is going to be applied unequally and if it will be applied haphazardly, then it is useless."
Mr Al Yousif, who runs www.mahmood.tv, said this policy will only victimise people who are courageous enough to reveal their identity on the Internet.
"There are many ways of disguising your identity on the Internet. Since these people cannot be identified, the law cannot be applied to them," he said.
The Internet blogging community, said Mr Al Yousif, has its own way of dealing with irresponsible bloggers.
"The blogging phenomenon, which has been sweeping the world for the past few years, has done wonders for progressing and protecting democracy because it's about normal people putting down their thoughts without having to go through the traditional editorial process."