The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) today decried Saudi regime’s decision to block tens of websites within days, in a bid to gag media outlets, bloggers, and opinion makers who oppose the regime, alleging that such websites are not registered in Ministry of Culture and Information.
According to the statements of Assistant Undersecretary for Internal Media of Ministry of Culture and Information, “Abdulaziz Al-Aqil”, Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information will block 41 electronic websites within days. It claimed that their legal status is not applicable to the articles of the Executive Regulation for Electronic Publishing Activity (Press and Publications Law’s amendments, issued in 2002) that are approved by Saudi regime in 2011. The regime made such a decision in an attempt to impose its security grip on all mediaoutlets that had not been operated before under security bodies’ control.
Saudi regime issued in 2011 an Executive Regulation for Electronic Publishing Activity, which a majority of its articles suppress freedom of electronic press. Saudi regime gave websites’ owners 6-month legal respite to rectify their legal status and it has been extended for many times. The second article of the regulation defines forms of electronic publishing: forums, blogs, chat rooms, electronic publishing houses, and personal websites. This is in addition to make it permissible for Ministry of Information to add any form of publishing to the electronic publishing list. As well, bloggers were demanded to write down their blogs with their real names, which in turn made it easier for the regime to prosecute them and put them in jail because of publishing their opposing opinions.
ANHRI clarified that Saudi regimerelies on article 19 of the Executive Regulationto block websites. This article, which came under general provisions chapter, refers the penalties of e-publishing violations to Combat Cybercrime system that involves provisions oppressive to freedom of opinion and expression and publication. Their penalties could reach to a prison term of not less than ten years, in addition to the financial penalties.
ANHRI said “Saudi regime’s attempt to block electronic publishing websites- including forms, blogs, personal websites, and maybe also social networking websites and twitter- is a continuation of the regime’s gagging of opinion makers and bloggers who are opposing its suppressive policy. The regime exploits its anti- freedom laws and its dependent judiciary that are mouthpieces of the ruling regime through issuing rules against activists and opinion makers”
ANHRI calls upon the international society to exert more effort to encourage Saudi regime to revise its anti-freedom laws, which contradict international and regional treaties and conventions.