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 cybercrime laws on charges including blasphemy, “insulting religion,” “inciting chaos,” “jeopardizing 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 criticize the country’s role in the war in Yemen, call for rapprochement with Qatar or oppose normalizing 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 uses very sophisticated spyware to monitor exiled journalists or influential people, as seen from the revelation that they managed to hack into Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos’s phone.
172 in 2019
65.88 in 2019