AN amendment that would soften a law on spreading false information in Bahrain was blocked by the Shura Council yesterday.
The government proposed a rewording of the legislation, making it illegal to "deliberately" spread false information with the "intention of causing harm".
It is a relaxation of a law that currently penalises those found guilty of simply spreading false information, which carries a penalty of up to two years in prison and a minimum fine of BD200.
The proposal was designed to support freedom of speech, but the Shura Council yesterday vetoed the amendment and criticised the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) for suggesting it.
That is despite Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa telling council members two weeks ago that the amendment was in line with European law and was drafted last summer - before the BICI recommendations came out.
Shura Council members argued it was impossible to determine if someone deliberately committed the crime, or if they did so unintentionally.
They have already approved other amendments to the Penal Code, which include jail sentences for those convicted of publishing false documents, leaflets or fabricated pictures that harm national security and negatively affect the economy for up to two years, with minimum fines of BD200.
They omitted two articles targeting people taking part in foreign political, social or economic gatherings that intend to harm Bahrain and prosecuting those who produce, promote, spread or publish pictures that may harm the country's reputation.
Shura Council members yesterday demanded a revote on another amendment to the Penal Code, which allows people to exercise freedom of expression and speech in line with the Constitution and the National Action Charter without any repercussions.
Councillors will take the vote next week after the amendment is revised by the legislative and legal affairs committee, despite voting in favour of it two weeks ago.
They claimed the article was unclear and didn't explain what freedom of expression or speech was.