Ali Abdulemam is a renowned Bahraini journalist, blogger, and former prisoner of conscience. After he was released from his latest political imprisonment on February 23, Abdulemam was invited to the 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum; he enthusiastically accepted his speaking invitation and plans were made for his travel. However, on March 15, he disappeared. On March 18, heavily armed policemen stormed Abdulemam’s vacated apartment and then that of his cousin, demanding to know his whereabouts and confiscating his property. No one has seen or heard from him since. On June 22, the Bahraini government sentenced Abdulemam in absentia to 15 years in prison for plotting a coup.


In 1999, Abdulemam created the online forum and pro-democracy news website Bahrain Online as a platform for his countrymen to share ideas and strategies for political change. This was the first free uncensored online forum for political and social debate in Bahrain, and Abdulemam is known as “the blog-father" for creating it. Since founding the website, Abdulemam has campaigned tirelessly for free and open discussion. Known as a visionary among his colleagues, he proved—many years before it became a conventional idea—that online activism can truly create social change. Bahrain Online gets more than 100,000 visitors a day, despite being blocked within Bahrain. Regarded by fellow Bahraini citizens as one of the Gulf’s internet pioneers, Abdulemam was arrested on September 4, 2010, on a charge of defaming the government. He was also accused of trying to destabilize the country by posting “false information about its internal affairs" on Bahrain Online.

Many calls for Abdulemam's release were issued by a solidarity campaign, via Facebook and informal petitions. In a concession to the opposition and demonstrators, on February 22, 2011, the Bahraini government suddenly freed Abdulemam and 22 other opposition and human rights activists who were being tried with him. Abdulemam said he was mistreated while detained: “I was subjected to torture, beatings, insults and verbal abuse. They threatened to dismiss my wife and other family members from their jobs. I was interrogated in the prosecution without a lawyer, and the officer there who appeared to be from the National Security dismissed my denials to the allegations put against me. He never allowed me to respond to the questions he was asking, but rather answering them himself whilst I stood behind the door as I was not permitted to sit during the investigation."

Abdulemam is a contributor to Global Voices Advocacy and Global Voices Arabic Lingua. In 2011, he was nominated for the Citizen Prize, an annual €2,500 award that goes to a blogger, online journalist, or cyber-dissident who has helped promote freedom of expression on the Internet.