It’s been a while since my last post and I thought, what better way to restart a blog on press freedom than with a short entry on Saudi Arabia? Yes.
So what’s new with one of the world’s least press-friendly nations?
Nothing less than a complete and sudden ban on live broadcasting. The minister of Culture and Information, Mr. Iyad Madani, officially banned live broadcasts on public television a total of two days after “unflattering comments” were made by call-in viewers about state employee salaries, criticising officials on air including Saudi’s King Abdullah.
The incident happened in late January on state-owned Al Ikhbariya, famous for being the first with female anchors and set up in 2004 “to improve the image of Saudi Arabia and its media in the region and the rest of the world.”
Its director, Mohammed Al Tonsi, was subsequently replaced by one of Madani’s aids.
According to the same article, now there are rumors government censors will be allowed to get their hands on all pre-broadcast programs before airing.
I won’t bother with context because I assume everyone’s pretty much familiar with the ins and outs of Saudi oppression over the media. I did want to end with something Madani said at a ministry-hosted event in Jeddah during the last annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that I think is appropriate:
“…we at the Ministry of Culture and Information will not dictate that the Saudi media or a newspaper must say what we want it to say.”
Apparently that is as long as no one actually does say what they don’t want them to say.