x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

In defence of Saudi Arabian press freedom

Suleiman al Akili, a regular columnist for the pro-government newspaper Al Watan, wrote an opinion piece about a report by the Reporters Without Borders organisation that put Saudi Arabia at 161 out of 173 countries in terms of press freedom.

Suleiman al Akili, a regular columnist for the pro-government newspaper Al Watan, wrote an opinion piece about a report by the Reporters Without Borders organisation that put Saudi Arabia at 161 out of 173 countries in terms of press freedom. "Everyone should know that the penalties journalists can incur in the Kingdom are the lightest penalties in the whole Middle East because they don't include imprisonment or bodily harm, only financial fines," he wrote. "Without relenting on our demands for more press freedom, I can say without any qualms that the press in the Kingdom has come to enjoy, in the past few years, ever wider margins of the freedom that have allowed it to criticise the government's policies, agendas and ministers." Saudi newspapers have supported human rights organisations and stood,along with their readers, against backward and obsolete traditions, al Akili wrote. "What I fear is that Reporters Without Borders has taken sides and leaned towards the left, because many leftist revolutionary countries were ranked above us."

The Palestinian-owned Al Quds al Arabi daily ran an opinion piece by Khudeir Bouqaila, the assistant editor in chief of the Algerian El Khabar newspaper about the presidential elections due in five months. "Whoever wants to enjoy this amazing show should turn on the television in the country of one and a half million martyrs, the country of pride and dignity, and I can guarantee he will not be disappointed or bored," he wrote. "Ever since the announcement of the passing of the constitutional amendment at the parliament, it has been a blast on governmental television." That amendment allowed the president to run for a third term. But although state television stations say the Algerians all want Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run again, others say their silence does not mean consent. "However, the other opinion says the people are sick and tired of the political foolishness they have been witnessing since the country gained its independence 46 years ago," Bouqaila wrote.