Publication Date: 
Sat, 2011-04-30 01:31

According to a royal decree announced Friday, the amendments
are "binding on all responsible persons in publishing to make objective
and constructive criticism aimed at the public interest and based on real
The amendments to five clauses to Royal Decree No. 32 of
Nov. 29, 2000, specifically makes it a crime to publish materials that harms
"the good reputation and honor" of the Kingdom's grand mufti, members
of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars and government officials.
The amendments also specify that it is a crime to publishing
anything that goes against the Shariah, damages state interests, serves foreign
interests, promotes criminal activity, threatens public order or harms national
The media are also not allowed to publish details of ongoing
investigations or trials without the prior permission of competent authorities.
Individuals found guilty can face a fine of up to SR500,000
or SR1,000,000 for repeat offenders and/or a ban on their works being published
or appearing in the media. Organizations found guilty of violating the
Kingdom's media law risk being shut down temporarily or permanently.
Alternatively, if the violation is not deemed serious enough for closure, media
organizations that publish false information or accusations will be required by
law to publish retractions and apologies. Violations that are deemed to be an
affront to Islam will be referred to a special court.
The rules also apply to online publications.
The decree sets up preliminary and appeals commissions to
deal with complaints against the violators. The preliminary commission will
include specialists in law and media and will have the power to issue punitive
measures to violators found guilty of breaking the law.
An appeals commission will also be established to either
uphold rulings of the preliminary commission or reject them. Decisions by the
appeals commission will be final.
A royal decree will be issued to set up these commissions.
Members of these commissions will hold their posts for three-year terms.
“The royal decree is crystal clear and gives everyone his
due," Ahmad Al-Amri, a journalist, told Arab News. "It changes the
earlier system of punishing journalists without an opportunity to appeal
against a decision.”
Another journalist, Abdullah Al-Johani, said the new
amendments would speed up the media awakening in the Kingdom. “The royal
decrees unambiguously determine our responsibilities," he added.
Legal expert Khaled Abu Rashed said: “The new amendment to
the regulations governing printing and publishing is a positive move to speed
up media development in the Kingdom.”
The establishment of preliminary and appeal commissions to
look into media violations is very significant, he said, adding that these
courts would help cut short the time consumed by legal procedures.

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