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.