MOCI are done working on their new law for regulating news websites. A spokesman for the ministry said the new law will also apply to websites of print newspapers, but the ministry does not plan to pre-approve their editors like they do with the dead tree news organisations. If the websites break the regulations, he added, they will be blocked. I guess that’s what this is all about. Making it easier for MOCI to block websites that they don’t like. The kind of enthusiasm and energy MOCI has put into this dumb idea is amazing. I only wish they would put this amazing effort into something more useful. But hey, that would be expecting way too much of them.
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 If these laws are old and outdated, then they should be amended, updated, or even overhauled and rewritten altogether if necessary.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.
News websites in Saudi Arabia have problems. But the answer to their problems is not regulation by the government, and the Ministry of Culture and Information’s idea to codify an internet law is dumb. I don’t see why anyone thinking of starting a website would want to ask for a license, or wait for the ministry to approve their editors. I guess the fact that the owners of these news websites have agreed to be under the supervision of the ministry says something about their understanding of press freedom and the so-called “professional integrity.” At a time when people go to the internet to seek more freedom and free themselves of old red lines and censorship, news websites in my country are running backwards. What’s next? Are they going to ask bloggers to register their blogs with the ministry?
Three words: not gonna happen.