Manama: Bahrain’s interior ministry said that it would crack down on offences and smear campaigns targeting national and public figures on social media networks.

“We have noted an increase in the use of modern communication means to defame and insult national icons and public figures from all segments,” the acting general director for combatting corruption and electronic and economic crimes said. “Such activities are considered crimes and as such warrant legal action.”

The official said that the ministry had received several complaints by respectable personalities who demanded an end to the targeting of their character and their families and a protection of social traditions and customs.

The ministry’s website will be used to receive reports and complaints about the crimes, he said.

“Anyone can report any violation on a website or an Internet forum by sending the address of the site to the Interior Ministry site. The ministry will then take the necessary legal measures against the offending site,” he said.

However, the official said that the move to check the defamation of public figures did not mean the curtailment of freedom of expression.

“There is no aim to curtail or limit the freedom of opinion or expression on the Internet and other means of modern communication. It simply aims to confront illegal violations that are way out of the practice of people’s rights as stipulated in the constitution and legal texts,” the official said.