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 If these laws are old and outdated, then they should be amended, updated, or even overhauled and rewritten altogether if necessary.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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Another Saudi Blog Blocked

susie

CITC is at it again, this time blocking Susie’s Big Adventure, a blog by an American woman married to a Saudi and based in Jeddah. I did not bother to seek a comment from CITC on why they blocked the blog because they never offered any reason for their arbitrary blocking decisions in the past. Is it because of this post about censorship? The post was so popular and got linked by the likes of The Insider, Idolator, and Perez Hilton (which is also blocked here).

You can help by going to this page and filling the Unblock Request form. As for Susie, if the blockage continues, she probably should contact NSHR to look into her case.

UPDATE 31/05/09: The blog has been unblocked. You can access the blog from Saudi Arabia again now.

Sketchiness

A news website published a sketchy story about Saudi female journalists — and all hell has broken loose, according to Tareq al-Homayed. Hedayah Al-Darwesh, chief editor of the website, strongly denied publishing the story, but it seems to me that they simply took it down after 13 female journalists lodged complaints to the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Culture and Information, the Human Rights Commission and the Saudi Journalists Association.

The incident gave Turki al-Sudairi and other old timers a great chance to attack online media. As head of SJA, he called MOCI and CITC to “regulating the issuing of website and online newspaper licenses.” Whatever that means. But hey, what do you know? Minister Abdul-Aziz Khoja said last week that the government intends to enact legislation for websites to require official licenses to be granted by a special agency under the purview of MOCI. Yeah, good luck with that.

I hate to be the first one to break the news to al-Homayed, al-Sudairi, Khoja, and the rest of the dead tree folks, but if we have learned anything from being online for the past ten years is that you just can’t control regulate the internet. I share the hope of John Burgess that the Minister floated this idea in response to the pressure resulted by this ridiculous incident. But even if he was serious about it, the truth is that we will have yet another one of those unenforceable laws that needlessly complicate the lives of everyone here.

I mean, seriously, can MOCI with all its bureaucracy handle this? Moreover, let’s assume that they can actually handle this, don’t they have more pressing issues to care about like fixing the failing state TV channels, open licensing for radio stations, and end censorship on books to name a few?