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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Saudi-Arabia, #1 Freedom-Expression's Predator

To show how some predators of freedom of expression really think, Reporters Without Borders - one of the biggest freedom of expression watchdog- have presented their innermost thoughts in the first person. They had to use a little imagination, of course, but the facts alluded to conform to reality. Here's one of their well-thought and sarcastic depiction of Saudi-Arabia's King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz Al-Saud. Enjoy!
Almost 90 years old, I am Saudi Arabia’s sixth monarch and the third most influential person in the world. That’s the opinion of Forbes magazine, not my own.
Since I acceded to the throne in 2005, I have hesitated between openness and
repression. It’s true that I have allowed my subjects to hold local elections (they will have to wait a bit longer for a presidential ballot), but I have not gone overboard in granting civil liberties.
Ok, I had opposition activists and journalists arrested. So what? Should a monarch like me give up total control of the media? That is the price of maintaining the dynasty at the head of the kingdom. Invoking the security argument to crack down on dissident opinion, and its expression, is the House of Saud ‘s secret way of maintaining stability. Our own and the country’s.
Journalists practise self-censorship? Good. The role of a journalist is to reproduce the instructions of the information ministry. The weather forecast is the only thing in the news that can be trusted? We are lucky that the temperature in Riyadh is 50 degrees all year round. Foreign correspondents are regularly accompanied by ministry officials? This is for their own safety.
Internet filtering has been stepped up since January 2011? Access to hundreds of thousands of pages has been blocked? This is to preserve social order, and also the welfare of Saudi citizens. My subjects are encouraged to report any disparaging information that might pollute “my” Internet. There is so much of it out there.
I made a point of expressing support publicly for my friend, Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, before his sudden removal from power. Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is living happily in my kingdom. I feel sorry for dictators. I am able to avert revolution by buying social peace. I have promised Saudis that I will grant benefits for the unemployed and students, bonuses for civil servants and housing assistance. I have also given women the right to vote and to be elected in local elections. Recently I even asked 30 women to join the consultative Shura Council. I have selected several prisoners to be pardoned. But I can only be lenient up to a point.
Critical voices? Silenced. Three journalists from an online television station were arrested in late 2011 for daring to mention poverty in “my” capital. Similarly, I blocked the Radio Nederland website after it published an article on the ill-treatment of immigrants in my kingdom. The journalist Hamza Kashgari is still in prison for expressing his personal opinion on line. He could face a death sentence for tweets regarded as blasphemous.

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