Free speech, Saudi-style

January 13, 2011

In the totalitarian religious tyranny Islamic state of Saudi Arabia, bloggers are free to write about whatever they wish — as long as it’s off the Kingdom-approved list of topics and you get a license, first:

Saudi Arabia has enacted stringent new regulations forcing some bloggers to obtain government licenses and to strongarm others into registering. In addition, all Saudi news blogs and electronic news sites will now be strictly licensed, required to “include the call to the religion of Islam” and to strictly abide by Islamic sharia law. The registration and religion requirements are also being coupled with strict restrictions on what topics Saudi bloggers can write on–a development which will essentially give Saudi authorities the right to shut down blogs at their discretion.

The new regulations went into effect on January 1, 2011. Fast Company previously reported on the law’s announcement this past autumn, but the actual reforms enacted were far more punitive than we were earlier led to believe. The exact specifics of the new regulations were not previously announced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

What the new regulations center around is a legal redefinition of almost all online content created in Saudi Arabia. Blogs are now legally classified as “electronic publishing” and news blogs (the term is not explicitly defined in the Saudi law) are now subject to the same legal regulations as newspapers. All Saudi Arabia-based news blogs, internet news sites, “internet sites containing video and audio materials” and Saudi Area-created mobile phone/smartphone content will fall under the newspaper rubric as well.

Under the regulations, any operators of news blogs, mobile phone content creators or operators of news sites in Saudi Arabia have to be Saudi citizens, at least 20 years old and possess a high school degree.

At least 31% of Saudi Arabia residents do not possess citizenship; these range from South Asian migrants living in poor conditions to well-off Western oil workers. All of them will find their internet rights sharply curtailed as a result of the new regulations.

I wonder if this would make the approved list for a Saudi-licensed blogger?

Nah. Might corrupt a person’s mind, and then what? Genuine respect for individual liberty?

Perish the thought.

via Jihad Watch

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Unclear on the concept, 1st amendment edition

May 31, 2010

We revere free speech in the United States, rightly considering it one of the essential liberties of a free people. In fact, we consider it so important that our ancestors made the protection of free speech a part of the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(Emphasis added)

So, I have to ask, what part of “no law … abridging” does Michigan State Senator Bruce Patterson not understand?

A Michigan lawmaker wants to license reporters to ensure they’re credible and vet them for “good moral character.”

Senator Bruce Patterson is introducing legislation that will regulate reporters much like the state does with hairdressers, auto mechanics and plumbers. Patterson, who also practices constitutional law, says that the general public is being overwhelmed by an increasing number of media outlets–traditional, online and citizen generated–and an even greater amount misinformation.

“Legitimate media sources are critically important to our government,” he said.

He told FoxNews.com that some reporters covering state politics don’t know what they’re talking about and they’re working for publications he’s never heard of, so he wants to install a process that’ll help him and the general public figure out which reporters to trust.

“We have to be able to get good information,” he said. “We have to be able to rely on the source and to understand the credentials of the source.”

There’s a face-palm moment in almost every paragraph. Does it not occur to the esteemed senator that giving government, over which the press exercises a watchdog function, the power to decide which is a legitimate source of information and which isn’t might have a bit of a chilling effect on that same free press? If you say or write the wrong thing, do you lose your license? And how has that “licensed journalism” thing worked out in, say, Cuba, Senator?

Patterson’s bill, for which he can find no co-sponsors (It seems some pols still have a sense of shame), would impose the following requirements:

According to the bill, reporters must provide the licensing board proof of:

  • “Good moral character” and demonstrate they have industry “ethics standards acceptable to the board.”
  • Possession of a degree in journalism or other degree substantially equivalent.
  • Not less than 3 years experience as a reporter or any other relevant background information.
  • Awards or recognition related to being a reporter.
  • Three or more writing samples.

The article goes on to say registration with the state would be voluntary and that no one would be barred from acting as a journalist in Michigan without a license, but, come on. Inevitably, some schmuck legislator who’s mad at the press would want to make registration a requirement “for the public good.” And the very act of registration almost certainly will create a legitimate/illegitimate distinction in the mind of the public that in turn will put pressure on journalists (staff or independent)  to submit to licensing in order to maintain credibility.

Even if this doesn’t violate the letter of the 1st Amendment, it sure as the Devil goes against its spirit. And this guy practices constitutional law? Between him and con-law professor Barack Obama, maybe we should consider licensing constitutional lawyers, instead.

Really, Senator, I think the good people of Michigan are smart enough to decide what is a legitimate news source and what isn’t without the state’s help.

(via Big Journalism)


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