Regulating publications in Saudi Arabia

Regulating publications in Saudi Arabia

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Publications in Saudi Arabia are governed by the law of printing and publication, which regulates such publications by setting related limitations and clarifying the needed requirements.
In this law, a publication has been defined as every means of expressing what is printed for circulation, whether a word, a drawing, an image or a sound. As for the activities that are subject to the provisions of this law, it includes publications, pre-press preparation services, presses, libraries, drawings and calligraphy, photography, importing, selling or renting movies and videotapes, audio recordings, radio, television, film or theatrical artistic production, television and radio studios, foreign media offices and their correspondents, advertising and public relations.
Moreover, it is not permissible to engage in any of the activities mentioned above except with a license from the Ministry of Media. This is not exempt from obtaining any license required by other regulations. It is also important to note that the law stipulates that freedom of expression is guaranteed by various means of publication within the framework of legal and regulatory provisions.
Concerning liability, the law stipulates that the author, publisher, and printer are all responsible for violations contained in a publication if it is printed or placed for circulation without approval.
As for newspapers, every newspaper that attributes an incorrect statement to a third party or publishes false news must correct this by publishing a correction free of charge, at the request of the person concerned, in the first issue issued after the request for correction. The correction must be located in the same place where the false news or statement was previously published or in a prominent place thereof. Also, those who are harmed have the right to claim compensation.
As for the withdrawal procedure, the Ministry of Media may withdraw any publication without compensation if it includes any of the matters prohibited from being published. This includes anything that contravenes the provisions of Islamic Shariah or the applicable regulations, anything that calls for a breach of the country’s security or public order, or anything that serves foreign interests in conflict with the national interest. It also includes exposing or harming the reputation or dignity, or defaming or personally insulting the grand mufti of the Kingdom, members of the Council of Senior Scholars, statesmen or any employees or any person of a natural or special legal capacity. Moreover, encouraging or inciting crime, anything that harms public affairs in the country, and, of course, publishing the related facts to investigations or trials, without obtaining permission from the legally authorized body or authority, is also forbidden.

Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi lawyer and legal consultant. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif

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