Is Saudi Arabia planning to censor YouTube?

A report has claimed Saudis could soon be forced to obtain a permit allowing them to share videos on YouTube

Heather Saul
Tuesday 17 December 2013 13:54 GMT
YouTube: Censored in Pakistan
YouTube: Censored in Pakistan (Getty Images)

A report published in Saudi Arabia newspaper Al-Hayat is claiming the state's head of Commission for Audiovisual Media is planning to create a new agency to monitor content on YouTube and video sharing sites.

According to the report, Saudis who want to share videos across the internet would have to obtain a permit from an agency overseen by Dr. Riadh Najem's commission. Videos would be censored to ensure only content compatible with Saudi “culture, values and tradition” would be permitted.

The news comes as it was revealed last month that Saudi Arabia, with its population of 28.3m, has more YouTube users per capita than any other country in the world.

Dr Najem allegedly told a meeting of businessmen and journalists he planned to create the agency on 1 December.

International organisation Reporters Without Borders, who campaign against censorship and for freedom of information said: “Although already monitored and censored, the internet has been one of the few spaces where Saudis could express views and share content but this announcement, if confirmed, would yet again show that the Saudi authorities are bent on eliminating all space for freedom and gagging civil society.”

“We urge the authorities to abandon this repressive measure and all of their other policies of systematic website content censorship, and instead to respect freedom of expression and information."

These reports have not been confirmed by Dr Najem but they have already drawn criticism from citizens of Saudi Arabia.

YourTube user Hassan Mesaed told Arab News: "The decision to censor content will limit the freedom of Saudi YouTubers. We use social media to share our opinions about different subject including social and political ones.

“Print media has limited freedom of speech and we can never know the whole truth from these traditional outlets,” he said. "This will definitely suffocate us because we got a taste of how to speak and hear other people through the YouTube shows without worrying about facing censorship.”

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