#IndexAwards2019: Mohammed al-Maskati provides digital security training to activists in the Middle East and in North Africa

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/1VVGMgSHM6U”][vc_column_text]Mohammed al-Maskati is a Bahraini activist and digital security consultant who provides digital security training to activists in the Middle East and in North Africa.

Working as Frontline Defenders’ Digital Protection Consultant for the MENA Region, Mohammed teaches activists – ranging from vulnerable minorities to renowned campaigners taking on whole governments – to get the truth out despite governments’ attempt to shut them down. He educates them on the use of VPNs, and how to avoid falling into phishing or malware traps, create safe passwords and keep their accounts anonymous.

The MENA region is one of the most oppressive areas of the world for human rights defenders, but it is too often ignored by app and software developers, who do not provide products or instructions manual in Arabic.

Mohammed Al-Maskati opens the door to using digital security apps, and as a direct result of his training, a growing number of activists in the Middle East have reported being able to avoid government surveillance and reprisals.

Regional governments have also taken notice of Mohammed’s activities. In May 2014, during a visit to Oman, he was kidnapped from a taxi and disappeared for three days, during which he was asked the names of the people he was helping. He has been banned from travelling to at least five countries, making it more difficult to reach activists in the region.

A good example is Mohammed’s work in Iraq. Demonstrations erupted in September, and clashes broke out between protesters and Iraqi forces. The independent media websites reporting on the unrest were soon taken down by the government.

Mohammed travelled to Iraq and helped the activists to circumvent censorship, and the websites were able to keep going.

He had a similar impact in Egypt ahead of the March 2018 national elections, when the government was censoring not only websites but also several VPN services. Mohammed was able to arrange for a group of organisations to offer their VPN for free to Egyptian human rights defenders and journalists.

Mohammed has also been active to circumvent his travel ban. He has written Arabic-language training manuals on digital security, which he has released online, and set up a digital security email newsletter. He is also the founder of and part of the rapid response team, which is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week to help tackle digital attacks as they happen in real time.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”104691″ img_size=”full” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2019/01/awards-2019/”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

2019 Freedom of Expression Awards

Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards exist to celebrate individuals or groups who have had a significant impact fighting censorship anywhere in the world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1552650108302-4a47418b-5e3e-10″ taxonomies=”26925″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Bahraini activists allegedly threatened by former government official on Twitter

Several Bahraini human rights activists have been sent threatening twitter messages during the past few days. Hostile messages were allegedly to Mohammed Al-Maskati, President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), and Yousif Almuhafda, who also works for BCHR, from a twitter account (@ADEL_FELAIFEL) allegedly operated by former colonel in the State Security and Intelligence Service, Adil Felaifel. According to Al-Maskati, one tweet, which came from the now deleted account, were directed towards himself and AlMuhafda, and said: “Do not think that because I’m not in the Ministry of Interior, I will shut up about you.”

Another tweet aimed at Maskati and Rajab said: “Maskati and Nabeel Rajab your future death and hell.”

Human rights activists in Bahrain, particularly those active on the popular social media site have endured regular attacks from “trolls” who regularly bombard individuals that send tweets to the Bahrain hashtag. The online attacks, which attempt to fan sectarian differences, are carried out by what activists call “e-thugs”, who are pro-Bahraini government activists as well as accounts believed to be run by government officials.

While twitter attacks have become commonplace for activists, Al Muskati felt that the potential threats from Adil Felaifel, who some believe is one of those responsible for overseeing torture in the 1980s and 1990s, changes the tone of the tweets. He said, “what’s different is that he is an ex-torturer who feels that he can threaten Human Rights Defenders publicly with impunity, knowing that no one will hold him accountable.”