Tag Archives: Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

Saudi Arabia

A 2007 cyber-crime law is widely used to silence dissent in Saudi Arabia. Article 6 says: “participating in the production, preparation, circulation or storage of content that undermines public order, religious values, public decency or privacy, by means of information networks or computers (…) is punishable by a prison sentence, fine or other penalty.” It was under this law that blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced in September 2014 to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” Since 2011, online media, the websites of traditional media and sites offering audio and video content have to apply to the culture and information ministry for a licence that must be renewed every three years. Applicants must identify themselves and the company hosting their site, and must produce “documents testifying to good conduct.” Forums, blogs, personal websites, distribution lists, online archives and chat services all have to be registered. In February 2014, the authorities added the stipulation that bloggers must use their real identity.

Saudi Arabia is ranked #164 over 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates, it is the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority that decides what may or may not be posted online. The list of blocked websites is long, as is the list of grounds for blocking, which include “violating ethics and morality,” “expressing hatred of religion” and posing a “direct or indirect risk to Internet users.” Whether they just report the facts or question the established order, media outlets have little chance of being read within the UAE. And the judicial system does not hesitate to impose heavy sentences when deemed necessary. For tweeting about the mistreatment of detainees, online activist Osama Al-Najjar was sentenced to three years in prison and a heavy fine last November on charges of insulting the state, inciting hatred and violence and spreading false information. He was tortured for four days after being arrested without any explanation in March 2014.

United Arab Emirates are ranked #120 over 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.