Beautiful Mess

I hear that officials at the Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI) are forging ahead with their dumb idea to regulate so-called electronic media. Asbar, a research center based in Riyadh that includes several members of Shourac Council on its board (conflict of interests, anyone?), has been working on a draft for the new law.

This Saturday, they hosted a discussion panel about the proposed law where they met with representatives from MOCI, CITC, KACST, and the Ministry of Interior as well as some government and media consultants.

Ironically, some owners of news websites are actually pushing for this law. They argue that it would make it easier for them to get funding and make money from advertising. What about their independence and freedom that could be threatened by the new law? Well, apparently these things are not high on their agenda.

I previously said regulation by the government is not the answer, and I stand by that opinion. News websites should operate under the same laws that regulate traditional media. If these laws are old and outdated, then they should be amended, updated, or even overhauled and rewritten altogether if necessary.

Although I find the government’s obsession with control hard to understand, I have to say it is not unusual. Someone should tell them that their constant attempts to police the internet are useless, really. Why get yourselves into this mess? Yes, it is a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. Just leave it that way.

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14 thoughts on “Beautiful Mess

  1. the government being control freaks is not something unusual, but people jeopardizing their own freedom for money/ass kissing/other reasons that wont come to me now is something i will never understand.

  2. Regardless of what such a committee might come up with, it is more of a tendency in our managerial mindset. We just love rules; a lot of them! Sometimes I feel that we need a rule to regulate another rule which will lead us to invent a rule to regulate them both!!!!!

    All in all, let’s hope they will come up with something addressing issues of funding, advertising, and relationship between printed and electronic media. In other words, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt till they finish their meetings!

  3. Interesting post and comments. I agree that online news sites should follow the laws of offline ones, and the international intellectual property and other laws that apply when you have global reach.

  4. Its a catch 22 – you give up some freedoms for the immediate financial gain, not realising that down the line it will cost you in the end.
    What is there to stop the government taking full ownershil (including said finances and increased revenues) down the line? Nothing.
    You give them an inch and they walk all over you.

  5. A popular liberal Saudi site has been BLOCKED 4 days ago..OOPs …I thought we are in an era of openness ,,May be I was wrong, I guess we are shifting back to the old dry face of this land..One step forward,, two steps back.

  6. I would offer the thought that that though “the government’s obsession with control” may be “hard to understand” one need but recall that the clerical establishment plays a large role in the government.

    Surely a clerical establishment that is obsessed with petty regulation of such things as whether to prompt a forceable entry into a ladies’ washroom can be expected to also take a large interest in our contact with the news.

    Indeed, I assume that our clerical establishment will insist that such regulation of the internet is demanded by divine law.

  7. The internet is a beautiful mess, however, any mess which has the power to influence public opinion or generate loads of money has and will be regulated.

    The first amendment protects free speech in the US, but they also have laws that cover almost anything, and the big companies are working to stop piracy which is digging into their profits.

    The Australian government is introducing a new proxy to block some sites.

    It is happening all over the world, but that does not mean people (including me) won’t go down without screaming :)

  8. “News websites should operate under the same laws that regulate traditional media”

    Are they proposing something different? What exactly are they controlling this time?

    We have seen a license to drive a bicycle before…lol

  9. It always seemed weird that Saudi had somewhat less restrictions on the web than the UAE did a few years ago. It’s more a case of a information regulation gap now for all sorts of odd reasons but also to compress those same old freedoms.

    If it does all go badly, download Hotspot shield in the meantime.

  10. I find it really hard to even think you can control something virtual like e-media,e-journals have more credibility than most traditional news papers here, it’s been obvious during the last miserable events at Jedda,
    web censorship is their only tool but I highly doubt that would be a real obstacle for e-journals, especially when you can easily bypass their stupid restrictions

  11. Have you seen the draft rules they’re working on?

    Regulation can be better than unwritten, informal, arbitrary controls. If anyone can block anything with total impunity, then no one can challenge the decision. Regulations may offer a starting point – one that can be improved upon over time.

    The problem is that those drafting the regulations often have trouble deciding on substantive terms (too controversial). Instead, they adopt a “licensing regime.” This is the worst of all possible outcomes (but sadly, by far the most common in Saudi). In effect, all the arbitrariness is left intact – but now, no one can speak without a license. Those licenses are safe for certain well-connected companies and individuals (who now gain near monopoly control over advertising). That sort of regulation would be exactly the approach to destroy any chance of developing a knowledge society in the KSA.

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