Internet Censorship of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince

Countries Mar 16, 2021

In recent years, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, has been implementing social and economic reforms.
Nevertheless, many bans still apply in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is the most influential Arab country with a developed IT and telecom sector. In 2016, the country passed a law requiring fingerprints to be provided when purchasing SIM cards. Subsequently, providers disconnected numbers whose owners did not go through the biometric identification procedure.

The Saudi Internet has banned sites with gambling, pornography, pirated content, information about drugs, sites of human rights organizations such as the Political Rights Organization and the Saudi Civil, sites of banned opposition parties, sites criticizing the royal family, and content that is incompatible with Islamic beliefs about ethics and morality.

Internet content in Saudi Arabia is controlled by both intelligence agencies and civil society organizations. At the same time, the emphasis is not on blocking but on identifying users and prosecuting them for posting content that violates the laws of the kingdom.

In September 2017, the Saudi Arabian authorities unblocked WhatsApp and Snapchat and allowed calls via Skype, Line, Telegram, Tango services.

Nevertheless, under Mohammed bin Salman's rule, the already repressive environment in Saudi Arabia for the press has undergone a sharp deterioration. Anti-terrorism and cybercrime laws and specialized courts give the authorities complete freedom to jail journalists and bloggers who stray from the pro-government narrative. As of December 1, 2018, sixteen journalists were behind bars. In the first half of 2019, the Saudi Arabian authorities detained at least nine journalists. According to medical assessments, four journalists detained during Salman's crackdown have been tortured in Saudi prisons.

The Saudi authorities block websites they deem objectionable, as well as access to VPN providers. Foreign correspondents can report from Saudi Arabia, but the authorities are not always granting entry permits, and international reporters are often faced with restrictions.

The worst punishment occurred in October 2018, when Saudi Arabian agents brutally murdered The Washington Post columnist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul (Turkey). A June 2019 UN report called the murder a "premeditated execution" for which the Saudi government is "responsible" and called for an investigation into Mohammed bin Salman's role in the incident.