Online writers will now have to register withe government to blog on the Internet. Only nationals allowed.
Starting next month, a new law will be enforced by the Saudi Arabian government that will force all online bloggers and e-newspapers to register with the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Sites that write about the country’s ‘news’ will be issued a license, valid for up to three years. To apply for a license, the writer must be a Saudi, over 20 years old and at least have a high school degree. They will also have to submit documents testifying to their “good behavior”.
The Saudi government says the move is made to ‘protect society’, pointing out they have been censoring content anyway.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights have condemned the move, saying such a law will put the Saudi government to the top of the list of autocratic governments.
“It is not a regulation to regulate the activities of electronic publishing as they claim, but rather a set of measures to seize freedom of publication on the Internet,” it says.
“Authorities will not be able to stop expression, the snowball has started to roll and no one can stop it. The siege imposed by the Saudi government on citizens will not succeed in killing ideas, opinions or stopping information and news from flowing.”
However, local news organization have praised the decision, saying it will encourage more credible exercise of the freedom of speech.
“What the Minister did was right, for who said that freedom comes without responsibility? Don’t they say that the field of publishing is a door wide open?” says Tariq Alhomayed, editor in chief of Asharaq Alawasat.
“Whoever wants to write, be published, and criticize others, must do so with credibility, and a firm stance, rather than hiding behind a computer screen in order to defame someone, spread ugly rumors, or promote social division under a false name and then they have the audacity to say: let me exercise my freedom!”
Online writers without a license can face upto a fine of 100,000 riyals (approx $26,665), and a possible lifetime ban.