Glimpse of stocking shocks the Saudis

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The Independent Online
THE God-fearing souls who read the Banbridge Chronicle have probably never thought of their sedate weekly newspaper as a hotbed of international subversion and pornography.

But the respectable Co Down organ has fallen foul of the censors who police Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic code. Wholesome photographs of the town's impeccably demure ladies, including the women's hockey team and members of the choral society, were clipped from papers sent weekly to a Banbridge man lecturing in Saudi Arabia.

It was only when the man, who prefers to remain anonymous so he can return to the country, came home and compared the holes and blacked out sections of his papers with those on file at the Chronicle's office that he discovered the source of the censors' ire.

One missing report detailed the success of a wine and cheese party to celebrate town-twinning week, marking the link between Banbridge and a town in France.

But closer inspection found that it was more likely to have been the choral society ladies' legs which caused the censors to balk. A photograph of the line-up in costume showed them daringly holding up their skirts to expose a glimpse of knee.

Further examination revealed that the legs of the ladies' hockey team had also been removed. 'It seems their short skirts had also caused offence,' said the man, who has worked in Saudi Arabia for 13 years, but has only experienced the problem recently.

'I would be reading through it and all of a sudden I'd come to a page and it would be missing. They'd also use felt-tip pens, the kind you can buy anywhere. All the legs, oxsters (armpits) and low-cut dresses were just wiped out.'

Bryan Hooks, editor of the Chronicle, with a weekly circulation of 8,000, said: 'In a way I think he was quite disappointed when he found out that it was just the choral society showing a bit of leg.

'He knew Saudi was strict, but not that strict. Maybe he thought we'd got a bit racy. But we're a well-known family newspaper. Anyway, I don't think we'll be starting the week in Banbridge thinking we mustn't publish anything to offend the Saudi censors.'

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