Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Cracking down harder

Saudi Arabia permits no independent media. The authorities keep Saudi journalists under close surveillance, even when they are abroad, as Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul in October 2018 illustrated. Despite his talk of reform, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) has intensified the repression since his appointment as crown prince in June 2017. The number of journalists and citizen-journalists in detention has tripled since the start of 2017. Most are being held arbitrarily and are likely subjected to torture, which is almost systematic for prisoners of conscience. Journalists who voice criticism or analyse political problems are liable to be fired or detained under criminal code provisions or under the terrorism or cyber-crime laws on charges of blasphemy, “insulting religion,” “inciting chaos,” “jeopardising national unity,” or "harming the image and reputation of the king and the state”. Everyone censors themselves, even on social networks. Journalists who dare to criticise the country’s role in the war in Yemen, call for rapprochement with Qatar or oppose normalising relations with Israel are regarded as traitors. Journalists automatically become suspect if they opt for neutrality rather than toe the official media line, which is to sing MBS’s praises. They are persecuted and harassed online by “electronic brigades” that are very active on social media, especially Twitter. The Saudi authorities also use very sophisticated spyware to monitor exiled journalists or influential people, as evidenced by the revelation that they managed to hack into Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos’s phone.

in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index



170 in 2020

Global score


62.14 in 2020

  • 0
    journalists killed in 2022
  • 0
    citizens journalists killed in 2022
  • 0
    media assistants killed in 2022
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