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?