Ministry of Culture and Information puts a damper on National Day

The spokeperson for the Saudi ministry of Information, Mr. Abdulrahman al Haza’a today came out on AlArabiya news network and announced that a new bill of laws will be coming out soon to monitor what Saudis write on the internet. When I first listened to it, it kind of made sense since at the beginning he was saying that news websites have to register and apply for a license and in return the ministry would assist with logistics and access. However he then moved on to talking about forums and blogs, saying that these too have to register and apply for a license. What does that mean? He didn’t elaborate and kept repeating that soon a detailed and clear bill will come out. No matter what it means, it is extremely worrisome. Twitter has been going crazy with outrage, questions and rumours on the hashtag #Haza3 which is the spokesperson’s last name. Aren’t our freedoms curbed enough? Am I going to need written permission from my guardian to maintain this blog? Do I need a paper from work too? Do I have to run everything by the ministry before posting? How about if instead of blogging, bloggers wrote the exact same stuff in consecutive Tweets and on Facebook notes, what are they going to do about that? Are we supposed to register our Facebook and Twitter accounts too? Seems to me that instead of fixing the stuff citizens complain about on forums and blogs, someone took it into their head to fix the citizens instead. That’s a twentieth century tactic that just won’t get anyone anywhere anymore.

Update 25 September

In case you missed it in the news, AFP contacted the ministry the very next day and the ministry denied that it will there will be any form of registration required from bloggers and forum owners.  They claim that the spokesperson Al Haza’a was misunderstood.


Filed under Freedom of speech, Sept 23rd

35 responses to “Ministry of Culture and Information puts a damper on National Day

  1. Pingback: Ministry of Culture and Information puts a damper on National Day « Saudiwoman’s Weblog « Stefan Afendoulis's Blog

  2. Fight it, stop it, don’t let them do it!!!

    In any countries where such occurs the only purpose is to shut up activists. I have absolutely no doubt your blog would eventually be refused a license.

    An examination of Chinese censorship shows this truth

    • Khalid

      Don’t worry leesis, it is not happening. Watch the clip, and you’ll find out that Blogs and Forms will not require any license.

  3. Dear Eman,

    A small correction:
    “to talking about forums and blogs, saying that these too have to register and apply for a license.” He didn’t say this, that was for Electronic newspaper. He said that people will be able to complain if someone made invalid personal attacks for any individual. And this was mainly for football teams forms, where if the team lost, people usually start saying offensive words to the players –now, any player, if he wishes, can report to the ministry of information if he is insulted in the forms. But still this hasn’t been implemented yet, so we don’t know when, as an example, when football players can file a report to the ministry against an insulter. Blogging and twittering is free as always.

  4. This idea was introduced a while back. I guess this is an update.

    As I understood it the target is electronic newspapers, but bloggers fear it will be extended to their activities, and of course to activist blogs.

    It seems that so far that isn’t about to happen.

    Hopefully it won’t in the future.

    • As above, nasty update, except that it is “recommended” not “obligatory” for bloggers to register. Hmmm. 😦

      Le Monde did an article on it, with a link to Media Note’s original article.

      • Not recommended, a better translation is “encouraged to register on their own so that the ministry can communicate with them”. Even with news sites the language was not much different. I guess they are trying not to alarm people but no matter how you put it, it’s still a ridiculous and scary measure. Either way nothing will become absolutely clear until the actual laws are announced and published.

  5. hhhhhh So fuuny do i need to register my comments here too 😉

  6. So now in addition to passports, national IDs and driving licenses and so on, there will be a government office for electronic forums and newspapers? How much is the fee going to be? Will they require the green file? Witnesses maybe?
    I guess a girl can’t have her own forum now unless her wali el amr agrees and applies for her 😐

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  8. You know, soon comes a new media bill here in Hungary and there is the same plan too with registering blogs even though Hungary is “liberal” democracy. So why I am not surprised? Can you do anything against it?

  9. I find this very alarming… =[

  10. Me too. I hope there’ll be some protests against it. But here is a 2/3 part majority of the Conservative Party in the Parliament, so they can do almost everything.

  11. Ahmed Fouad

    As far as I got it..

    This is not for deterring freedom and outspoken views..

    It is rather a regulation against those who misuse this freedom and try to harm other people or organisations..

    So, I support such regulation, unless I get it otherwise..

  12. Mary

    Good luck to all of you still living in the land of darkness. I moved away 22 years ago and donot miss it a bit.
    I am a strong believer in Islam and my self since I move away. I came back to visit last year hoping to see change (not in building or roads) I felt nothing has changed just got worse.

    None of what’s happening in that whole region is Islamic nor will it ever be.

    May be one day , when the pigs fly !!

    So if you can not beat it, or change it just leave it, forget fighting it.

    You will always lose no matter how or what !! and please donot ever think that change will happen in that region, they have the whole concept of life upside down, the concept of religion upside down and everything else in between.

    Keep blogging away (if they donot take that right away form you) and I hope a light will shine somewhere

  13. Eman–thanks for the comment on the translation above. “Encouraged” vs “obligatory” were the words used in what I read. I couldn’t resist the temptation to reformulate along “fiqh” lines. I need to remember that the joke in my head isn’t always self-explanatory. 🙂 Thanks again.

    I agree that it is worrisome, and one wonders if it is preparatory, or a frog in boiling water scenario.

    That said, as far as how blogs are monitored, based on what I learned when on a different blog where I had administrative privileges, there are general sweeps of everything on the net, and then a focusing on specifics of interest. That blog temporarily garnered A LOT of interest from various ministries of both the KSA and the USA.

    Registering to be more accessible, takes it to a new level though. The rationale about suing for defamation etc is a bit of a canard, as one can do that no matter what. As long as the whatever is online, it is considered a written publication once posted.

  14. Kha

    Although I want to be reasonable and wait till I hear more about specific laws passed (and it’ll probably be a while before that actually happens), I am still worried. This may stifle the enormous creativity and knowledge we can gain from Saudi bloggers living in Saudi. My whole summer as I knew it this year wouldn’t be the same if every Saudi blogger had to register…

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  21. ali

    The whole thing sounds like the banning of Blackberry… 😛

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  23. there was a law in Turkey in the early years of internet and everybody was supposed to declare a copy of their internet site to the nearest police station. of course, the law was made by people who had no idea how internet worked, so nobody actually practised the law. as far as i know, the law is removed. but it is a great showcase for how dumb the rulers can be.

    unfortunately for Turkey, we still suffer frım dumbness, no matter if that law is still in charge or not.

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