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Saudi Arabia clamps down on blogs, news sites

Websites and blogs to be registered with Ministry in Kingdom

Saudi Arabia clamps down on blogs, news sites
The Ministry of Information and Culture says that registration for online publications will bring them into line with print media.

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's most conservative state, plans to introduce a raft of new rules to clamp down on news websites and blogs operating in the kingdom.

Online newspapers will need to have editors-in-chief that have formally been approved by the Ministry of Information and Culture (MOCI).

The rules, which will be introduced in a month’s time, will also require net newspapers, blogs and forums to be licensed by the ministry.

Applicants for those licences will need to be a Saudi national, older than 20, with high school qualifications and “documents testifying to their good behaviour”.

A full description of the laws has been posted on the ministry’s website, together with the size of the fines that the agency will hand out to transgressors.

Included in the areas that the ministry will regulate are electronic advertisements, personal websites, electronic archives and chat rooms.

Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Aziz Khoja said that the system is “in line with the development moves that the media sector is witnessing”, according to Arab News.

He also said that the rules do not restrict freedom of speech, and that the ministry is eager to ensure that there is transparency.

However, a prominent blogger on the issue, Ahmed Al Omran, has expressed concern about the implication of the new laws.

“Another worrying piece in the law says those who get permission must provide the ministry with the information of their hosting company,” Al Omran wrote on the Mideastposts site.

“We can conclude from this that MOCI won’t simply block your website for readers inside the country, but they can also deny access to your website from anywhere by forcing the hosting company to take your site offline altogether. Scary.”

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