The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

CPJ on the state of Saudi media

The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a rare report on the state of the Saudi press:
Although newspapers are privately owned, the state exerts tremendous influence over what is reported. The government approves the appointments of editors-in-chief, a process that journalists say is done behind closed doors with the oversight of Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, the powerful interior minister. In practice, though not by law, newspapers require the financial or political backing of a member of the royal family. Unlike in other parts of the region, “opposition journalism” simply doesn’t exist in Saudi Arabia. While some columnists have criticized low-level ministers, news coverage is typically devoid of anything reflecting negatively on the royal family, high-ranking officials, and the country’s religious clerics and institutions.

Top editors and most journalists view themselves as defenders of the ruling Al-Saud family, and government officials ensure allegiance by applying behind-the-scenes pressure—issuing directions on sensitive stories, banning coverage of certain topics, and taking punitive actions against journalists. Over the past decade, CPJ research shows, dozens of editors, writers, academics, and other media critics have been suspended, dismissed from their jobs, or banned from appearing in the Saudi press. The actions came by government order, the intervention of religious leaders, or at the initiative of editors. Other journalists have faced detention, questioning by security authorities, and travel bans.
The report goes on to describe how writers get blacklisted, the flux and reflux of censorship, the intervention of religious authorities, and more. This type of information is rare because, while easier than before, investigative reporting is still quite tough in Sadist Arabia.

Via Tatteh Aardvark, who has a summary of the report's findings.