Censored in KSA

There are no set rules or even boundaries for what could get a writer censored in Saudi Arabia. A person could be banned from writing for being too liberal, like what happened to Wajeha al Huwaider or a whole paper could be blocked from inside Saudi Arabia for being too conservative. The decision-making process of which writers, articles or whole websites get censored is also a mystery. A particular piece could be block and nothing more said, or an individual might be warned off publishing anything in a Saudi targeted medium. In the former case, it’s most likely that a big enough number of people called up the King Abdulazziz Technology City to complain and then a site is blocked. If then enough people complain about the unfairness of having it blocked, the KATC will claim that the whole thing was a mistake and unblock the site, this once happened to Amazon in 2006.

The most recent writer to get a government endorsed complete ban from writing is Mohammed al Rottayan. On the 14th of February, Al Watan newspaper published Rottayan’s satirical take on how different Obama’s aunt would have been received if she were a relative of a Saudi ruler or even a minister. Since then his popular daily column has disappeared and he has not been published elsewhere either. Badria al Bishr bravely wrote on al Hayat website an article asking where Rottayan is. She begins with the old proverbial story about Yousef. It goes that an Arab ruler meets with his people to listen to their complaints and concerns. So Yousef stands up and honestly speaks about his concerns. The next year the ruler meets again with his people and someone stands up and asks the ruler “where’s Yousef?”. She ends the article with a call to everyone to not be silent about what happened to al Rottayan.

Interestingly someone commented on Bishr’s article that they had seen al Rottayan at the Riyadh Book Fair and that he did indeed confirm that he is currently banned from publishing anything.


Filed under Freedom of speech, Injustice

19 responses to “Censored in KSA

  1. I think most Americans don’t realize just how lucky we are to have the First Amendment. We spend a lot of time complaining about people who say things we don’t want to hear, but that is so much better than random bannings.

    • admin

      But the First Amendment isn’t nearly comprehensive enough: It doesn’t protect against frivolous libel lawsuits, nor the very vague category of “hate speech.” Article XIX rights would be far preferable.

      Still, yes, I know, I should feel lucky as an American.

  2. Marcus

    March on Mecca, March with your hair flowing in the wind, remove your oppressive cloaks and show your freedom to the world with media exposure, this could be your Tienanmen Square… Spread the word for this brave man, it will be Muslim women who will break this vile ideology which suppresses… Good luck..

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention Censored in KSA « Saudiwoman’s Weblog -- Topsy.com

  4. Hala

    Everyone who works in the business of writing in KSA knows that there are certain limits of freedom, most of the time the reviewing editors would ban stuff that violate the unspoken rules, I always wondered if the price of addressing royalties or politicians -unnecessarily- worths ending one’s contributions to society? in this instance concerning Al-Rutayyian, I think both himself and us as readers have lost a lot for an irrelevant and insignificant commentary…

  5. Mark Jacobsen

    Eman, so was this gentleman (who was banned) a professional writer? Is he getting a paycheck anymore?

    Thanks for having the guts to write this!

  6. Eman– this is an important topic and you are indeed courageous to address it. I have linked it in my post on freedom of speech including in Saudi, but inspired by Ann Coulter’s recent visit to Canada and her islamophobic remarks to university audiences (which are of course now all over the news):

    Ann Coulter, Islamophobia, American Freedom of Speech, Canada’s Right to Exist and Cancellation at the Univeristy of Ottawa–Relevance to Saudi?

    I do think there is relevance, though I appreciate that the restrictions on free speech and freedom of the press in MENA countries and Saudi are quite different than those in North America (Canada has more restrictions than the US on what is considered hate speech), and the political and social implications are quite different.

  7. hi, i was working in KSA before as a nurse and i really find your blog interesting…=)keep it up!!!

  8. Omaima

    this is what I hate the most about living in Saudi arabia ..
    they don’t even wanna give ya the freedome to think
    they just publish books who they believe ppl should believe in .. !!
    Omaima Al Najjar!
    * btw ms. Eman .. where did u go after leaving our college..!?
    are you getting your Phd somewhere?

  9. AQSA

    Looks like now some muslim women need freedom to wear a bikini and walk in street have sex in street !!!

    yes it is freedom !


    • Faaiez

      No it is not like that sis Aqsa, i am engaged to my cousin and she is saudi but his x father didnt let her to study even. I am pakistani national. It has been 5 years of our engagment to get married. On other hand my finacee mother my aunt struggling for her since her childhood just imagine how miserable is your life if you donot have your passport your college id and basic rights of living. So bette rthin before you say.

      Furthermore, if any one knows how to get support of any social welfare in ksa please do let me know malikfaaiez@msn.com

      Thanks & Regards,

  10. Pingback: Sheikh Ahmed Al Ghamdi – The man of the hour « Mohammed Abbasi

  11. “When I was young I waundered in endless forests of trees that towered endlessly above me, as an adult the footprint of my decisions can destroy or save an entire forest impacting our ‘…21 MILES OF PARADISE’.

    From anywhere we stand in the world it is approximately 21 miles to the ozone layer. From my alma mater at the University of Kansas in Lawrence to the Kansas State Capital building in Topeka where they write laws for K.S.A. [Kansas Statutes Annotated] it is 25 miles a distance larger than our delicate life support system on Earth.

    Where there are many influences impacting our life support system on Earth, there must be many people focused on important efforts to reduce one or more of those many influences. Architectural design is my vocation and Building-Integrated PhotoVoltaic [BI-PV] Solar Architecture is the path I have been pursuing since I founded the SOLAR DEVELOPMENT COOPERATIVE in 1992.

    In 1992, I spoke at the 2nd Egyptian Solar Energy Society Conference in Cairo. It was a wonderful experience to be working with solar energy colleagues a short walk from the Giza Pyramids.

    While the grass always seems better on the other side or the sand in the case of Cairo and solar energy, I believe the key to reducing censorship -which I have experienced at my own alma mater the University of Kansas is to reach out and communicate with colleagues around the world.

    We need stronger laws under K.S.A. to protect renewable technology pioneers like myself from censorship and oppression. To read more about my work click on TIMELINE on K-SEC’s website to read excerpts from my book “ElectriCity BEYOND THE CURVE OF DEREGULATION”: http://www.BI-PVSolarArchitecture.com

    I have seen some wonderful designs for BI-PV Solar being completed in Saudia Arabia and I would welcome photographs and testimonials.

    Peace be upon her…

  12. Lokman Elkayed

    All things in life are temporary.   If going well,
    Enjoy it, They will not last forever.
    If going wrong, don’t worry, They can’t last long

  13. Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the web the easiest thing to be
    aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think about worries that
    they just do not know about. You managed to hit
    the nail upon the top and defined out the whole
    thing without having side-effects , people could take a
    signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s