Saudi Government Looking To Jail More Citizens For 'Harming Public Order' With Their Religious Tweets

from the perpetual-crackdown-mode dept

The internet may be an amazing communication tool, but it's also a handy way for governments to keep an eye on their citizens. Saudi Arabia uses the internet for multiple things -- mainly monitoring dissent and controlling communication.

An expansive cybercrime law, coupled with longstanding statutes outlawing criticism of the official religion, have made it easy for the Saudi government to jail critics and cut off communications platforms. Bloggers have been imprisoned and encrypted services asked for technical details presumably in hopes of inserting the government into private conversations.

The prosecution of speech the government doesn't like continues, as Reuters reports:

A group of Twitter users will be indicted in Saudi Arabia on charges of harming public order for threatening the "safety and moderate ideology of society" through extremism, according to a statement on state news agency SPA.

The country's chief prosecutor summoned the Twitter users on Sunday, the statement said, without naming them or specifying how many were accused.

The substance of the offending tweets can only be speculated about. Presumably, they violated the kingdom's self-image and/or that of the prevailing religion. More statements were made by officials, but none of them offered clarity on the tweets' content. Instead, they were contradictory statements using the Saudi version of "We're big supporters of free speech, but.."

In a separate statement, Public Prosecutor Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah al-Muajab said he respected freedom of opinion but asserted his office's power to pursue cases against those who promote hatred or sectarianism, or mislead public opinion.

"Misleading public opinion" becomes a much vaguer complaint when the government defines what the public's opinion should be and enforces it with dissent-crushing laws. There's no church/state separation at play either, so religious leaders are pretty much political leaders, and "misleading public opinion" could be nothing more than a disagreement over interpretations of a religious text. In most countries, the worst that might happen is a ruined Thanksgiving dinner. Over there, it's jail time and a possible beating.

In an absurd twist, Saudi Arabia will host 2020's G20 summit -- an annual gathering of world leaders, most of which hail from a freer world. Because of this, some leaders will be hesitant to condemn the Saudi kingdom for its continued oppression of speech. If things don't change tremendously over the next few years, participating in the G20 summit will amount to tacit approval of the Saudi government's abuses and will legitimize ongoing censorship.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 7:51pm

    Surprised he didn't mention the T word as justification as well. (Terrorism.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Aug 2017 @ 9:53pm

    participating in the G20 summit will amount to tacit approval of the Saudi government's abuses and will legitimize ongoing censorship.

    Next year the summit is in Argentina. 1 year ago, it was in China. The year before, Turkey. 2 years before that, Russia. A year earlier, Mexico.

    Are you expecting me to believe that the US approves of everything that the leaders of Argentina, China, Turkey, Russia and Mexico have done for the past decade?

    Alternatively, the first four summits were US, UK, US, Canada. Are you suggesting the China approves of what the US, UK and/or Canada do? Even Germany doesn't agree with a lot of what the US does (hello first amendment).

    If participating in this meant that every country on the list approved of every other country's actions, said list probably wouldn't even include both the US and UK, much less the other 18 members.

    Having diplomatic relations with other countries is not tacit approval of everything they do. To suggest otherwise is far more of an absurd twist than anything in this article. I expect better from this website.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 16 Aug 2017 @ 4:28am

    "If things don't change tremendously over the next few years, participating in the G20 summit will amount to tacit approval of the Saudi government's abuses and will legitimize ongoing censorship. "

    Let's face it, if anybody was concerned about these issues we'd have embargoes on multiple countries against China, Russia, the US (yes, they violate all sorts of Human Rights), UK and many other totalitarian or pseudo-democratic countries. The world needs hypocrisy to function.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 16 Aug 2017 @ 8:28am

      Re:

      It's my own theory of human relationships: everything is built on lying. We teach our kids to lie from a very early age ("Mommy, look at that fat lady!" - smack - "Don't say things like that! Even if they're true!"), and hone their lying skills as they get older. The higher the civil structure, the bigger the lies. As everyone knows, the truth WILL eventually come out and anything built on lies will fall apart. Couples will divorce, a major CEO may go to prison, and countries go to war.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2017 @ 6:08am

    Over there, it's jail time and a possible beating. The author may have misspelled beheading.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2017 @ 6:17am

    1st rule of the cult

    Don't talk about the cult

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2017 @ 7:56am

    I imagine many mouths are drooling over the possibility of bringing that sort of thing here

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2017 @ 8:08am

    *If things don't change tremendously over the next few years, participating in the G20 summit will amount to tacit approval of the Saudi government's abuses and will legitimize ongoing censorship.*

    KSA has a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and the Women's Rights Commission. We're far past "tacit approval." We're dabbling in Lewis Carroll territory at this point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Aug 2017 @ 9:24am

    When I used to run a free VPN, when I ran my online radio station, to let people get past workplace firewalls to listen, I used to see a lot of connections, at times, from Saudi Arabia.

    Of course, one of the VPN services I ran on my servers used port 443, which cannot be blocked without blocking SSL authentication servers.

    If my proxy were running now, I would imagine there would be a lot of connections from Britain, with the new amendments to the Digital Britain law, to avoid being monitored or blocked.

    Of course, if that VPN were still running, my US-based servers would have been not subject to any British laws, as only US laws would be applicable to my servers, and I would, therefore, not be subject to prosecution in Britan, if, say, Britain had required encryption backdoors, and someone in Britain came through my servers to evade HM Government.

    That same applies to Saudi Arabia. When i used to see a lot of connections to my proxy from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China, I was not subject to prosecution in those countries, becuase my US based servers only had to comply with US laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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