May 1, 2011

Saudi Bloggers Face Stringent Restrictions

In a country like Saudi Arabia in which media is controlled by the Kingdom, blogs have become an alternative source of news and opinion in recent years. Saudi is ranked second in the Arab world for having the most bloggers, trailing only behind Egypt. According to BBC, the number of Saudi bloggers (both male and female) was between 500-600 in both English and Arabic.

Like many other Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia is restrictive in its blogosphere. In 2008, Fouad Al-Farhan, a well-known blogger was arrested for his criticism of the government’s corruption and his call for political reform. In 2011, in the wake of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, Saudi government enacted stringent new regulations forcing bloggers to register and obtain government licenses in order to publish online. According to this law, all Saudi news blogs and electronic news sites now must be strictly licensed, and are required to “include the call to the religion of Islam” and to strictly abide by Islamic sharia law.

Human rights activists and bloggers have reacted to government’s decision on limiting freedom of expression. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) is already concerned about the new regulation, which was issued at the beginning of 2011. The CJP has voiced its concerned and has asked the Saudi government to listen to its bloggers and respect their freedom of speech.


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