Press freedom reports



Saudi Arabia’s press freedom record is bleak. In Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index Saudi Arabia ranks 161st out of 168. It is also considered to a “Internet black hole” by the same organization. The annual report on press freedom by Reporters Without Borders notes that “Despite greater press freedom in recent years, writers and journalists who called for reform were subject to short-term arrests, travel bans or censorship. Some also faced harassment by private individuals aligned to conservative sectors of society.”

 

A 2007 special report on Saudi Arabia by the Committee to Protect Journalists argues that there are three forces at work in obstructing press freedom: Firstly, “government officials dismiss editors, suspend or blacklist dissident writers, order news blackouts on controversial topics, and admonish independent columnists over their writings to deter undesirable criticism or to appease religious constituencies.” Secondly “the country’s conservative religious establishment acts as a powerful lobbying force against enterprising coverage of social, cultural, and religious matters,” and thirdly “compliant government-approved editors squelch controversial news, acquiesce to official pressures to tone down coverage, and silence critical voices.”

 

The 2006 World Press Freedom Review by the International Press Institute observes that although Saudi Arabia is “regarded as having one of the world’s most tightly controlled media environments, the Saudi Arabian press has started to make bolder choices about what issues it dares to cover, sometimes reporting on crime, drug trafficking, employment, human rights or religious extremism, issues traditionally regarded as taboo. Authorities do not have a tolerant attitude toward the press, however, and media freedom is subject to royal whim. While at times it seems that support for a more open media environment might be forthcoming, on many other occasions, the government acts to silence criticism by banning newspapers, arresting journalists or exerting pressure through behind-the-scenes tactics of intimidation.”