Saudi Arabia Now Forcing News Bloggers to Obtain Licenses, Promote Islam
Saudi Arabia “has just enacted one of the world’s most stringent sets of blogging regulations: Non-citizens can’t write about news, chat room users are encouraged to register with the government, and everyone needs to be very careful about religion,” Fast Company reports.
By Neal Ungerleider
1/12/2011 Saudi Arabia (Fast Company) – The Middle Eastern kingdom has just enacted one of the world’s most stringent sets of blogging regulations: Non-citizens can’t write about news, chat room users are encouraged to register with the government, and everyone needs to be very careful about religion.
Saudi Arabia has enacted stringent new regulations forcing some bloggers to obtain government licenses and to strongarm others into registering. In addition, all Saudi news blogs and electronic news sites will now be strictly licensed, required to “include the call to the religion of Islam” and to strictly abide by Islamic sharia law. The registration and religion requirements are also being coupled with strict restrictions on what topics Saudi bloggers can write on–a development which will essentially give Saudi authorities the right to shut down blogs at their discretion.
The new regulations went into effect on January 1, 2011. Fast Company previously reported on the law’s announcement this past autumn, but the actual reforms enacted were far more punitive than we were earlier led to believe. The exact specifics of the new regulations were not previously announced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The most telling–and dangerous– detail in the new Saudi regulations is a provision requiring all news bloggers to provide the Saudi Arabian government with detailed information on their hosting company. This could easily allow the Saudi Arabian government to block access to a particular website across domains or to even force hosting companies to take dissidents’ websites offline.
Non-citizens will still be allowed to blog on non-news topics. However, all Saudi Arabian bloggers–both citizens and non-citizens–are “recommended” to register with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture and Information. In addition, blogs are now defined as falling under the Saudi Press and Publications Law.
This requires all publications created in Saudi Arabia to “include the call to the religion of Islam,” not to “violate the Islamic Shari’a rulings,” or to compromise national security or “public order.”
The Saudi Arabian government has a long history of jailing bloggers who write about politics, corruption or religion. Now the situation may even get worse.