Newspapers in Saudi Arabia
The media in Saudi Arabia is heavily ruled by the regime and no criticism of
Islam, the royal family or the government is allowed.
At the same time, the picture is twofold. For example, satellite antennas
have been banned by law since 1994, but a majority of Saudi households have
parabolas because holdings are not penalized and thus have access to, among
other things, uncensored US news broadcasts and TV shows. Liberal media policy
is part of the regime's strategy to counter the recruitment and support of the
Islamic State and other armed Islamist movements.
There are also close links between the Saudi royal house and international
media groups. For example, through his holding company Kingdom Holding Company,
Prince Alwalid bin Talal is a partner in Twitter, Time Warner, and in Rupert
Murdoch's news corporations and 21st Century Fox.
Radio and TV
Radio and television broadcasts are state-run and managed by Saudi
Broadcasting Corporation (founded in 1962). The state-owned oil company
Saudi Aramco also has its own radio and TV broadcasts.
Although private broadcasters are not allowed to broadcast from the country,
Saudi investors are behind two major broadcasters broadcasting via satellite to
the entire Arab world, OSN in Bahrain and MBC in Dubai.
OSN, founded in 2009, is the Middle East's largest pay-TV company and has
over 100 channels. The company has exclusive broadcast rights for films from
several American film companies such as Warner Brothers and Paramount, and the
same applies to a large number of American TV series.
MBC, founded in 1991, has about ten channels and is advertising-funded. MBC
also owns the news channel al-Arabiya, founded in 2003. al-Arabiya is the Middle
East's second largest news channel after al-Jazira, it broadcasts around the
clock and has editorial offices in some 30 cities around the world (2015). The
channel has been accused of being prosaic in its news reporting and may partly
be seen as a counterbalance to al-Jazira, accused of going the Qatari regime's
case, a regime Saudi Arabia has been straining relations with since the state
Internet and mobile telephony
Access to the Internet via fixed or mobile broadband is very good, even in
remote areas, and the penetration of smart mobiles is almost 80 percent, which
is higher than in Sweden (2015). All internet traffic goes through proxy servers
that are monitored by the state, and sites that are considered immoral or seen
as a threat to the government are routinely blocked, manually or through
advanced software. Since 2011, news sites and blogs must have permission from
the Ministry of Culture to operate.
In 2015, the most visited sites were Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Only one domestic site was on the top ten list, the news site Sabq.
In Saudi Arabia there are fifteen daily newspapers, most of which are
published in Arabic and some in English. The largest are al-Riyadh, al-Jazira,
both published in Riyadh, and Okaz, published in Jeddah. The largest among the
English-language newspapers is Arab News, published in Jeddah. Most daily
newspapers are privately owned, but must have a publishing certificate issued by
the king. Chief editors are appointed by the government, which also has the
right to dismiss them.
al-Riyadh and Arab News are published by Saudi Research & Marketing Group
(SRMG), which also owns the London-based Ashark al-Awsat, which is distributed
to Arabic speakers worldwide. SRMG, owned by Kingdom Holding Company, is the
leading media house in Saudi Arabia and also publishes about ten magazines.
Saudi culture is very much linked to Islam,
which has its mark on society as a whole. The visual
arts are dominated by geometric and abstract patterns
and by calligraphy (fiction). Music and poetry often
have roots in the desert-based Bedouin culture.
This is the case, for example, nabati, traditional
epic folk poetry, which lives alongside classical Arabic
poetry, and arda, a folk dance performed by men equipped
In Saudi Arabia, cinemas and theaters have long been
banned, but it is being relaxed - cinemas are allowed in
2018. Since then, recorded films, even from the West,
have been bought and several Saudi filmmakers have
received international attention in recent years. This
is especially true of Haifaa al-Mansour, whose
award-winning film The Green Bike is the first feature
film to be filmed in its entirety in Saudi Arabia. The
2012 film is about a young girl who cannot rein in her
longing for cycling even though it is considered
inappropriate for girls. The female director had to
communicate with the actors from the inside of a van
during the outdoor shoots because she couldn't show up
on the street with male colleagues.
Latest population statistics of Saudi Arabia, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
Among modern authors are Abdarrahman Munif
(1933–2004) who, among other things, depicted desert
life and Saudi Arabia's evolution from Bedouin community
to oil economy. Munif was deprived of his Saudi
citizenship for political reasons. Turki al-Hamad
published a trilogy from 1998 on the rise of a young
Saudi in the 1960s and 1970s. He deals with sensitive
topics such as politics, religion and sexuality. The
works have been banned and Hamad himself has been the
subject of damning fatwor and arrested six months in
2013. A young writer, Rajaa al-Sanea, published in 2006
a controversial novel about young Saudi women's desire
for a freer life.
The oasis landscape in al-Ahsa in the east is one of
the places the UN organization Unesco has put on its
World Heritage list. Rock paintings in the Ha'il region
- some very old - are also classified as a world
heritage site, as well as stone tombs from the Nabatean
period in al-Hijr. Jiddas gama city block is highlighted
because they testify to the history of the development
on both sides of the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia's national anthem was composed by
Egyptian-born musician Abdelrahman Elkhatib (1922–2013),
who later served as a teacher in Södertälje and
performed to a Swedish audience with musicians such as
flute player Björn J: son Lindh.
New robot against Riyadh
The Saudis shoot down yet another robot fired by the
huhire rebels in Yemen against Riyadh. The Huthis
themselves state that the target of the robot was King
Bio is allowed
A ban on commercial cinemas that has prevailed since
the 1970s is lifted, as part of the liberalization of
society run by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The
Ministry of Culture and Information states that licenses
for conducting bio-activities should begin to be issued
as part of the government's program for "rich indigenous
culture for the Saudis".
Leaders are absent from GCC summit
Hopes for a solution to the conflict within the GCC
come to shame when everyone except the host country of
Kuwait and Qatar is represented at a lower level at the
regional cooperation organization summit in Kuwait. The
meeting ends prematurely and is overshadowed by Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates declaring that they
intend to form a new organization to strengthen their
military, political, economic, trade and cultural
Provised National Guard Manager is released
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah is said to have been
released after a settlement with authorities worth over
a billion dollars. Prince Miteb is regarded as the most
politically influential person among those arrested at
the beginning of the month. He is the son of the former
king and was the head of the National Guard. Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with the
New York Times that 95 percent of those arrested have
agreed to hand over money or shares to the Saudi state.
One percent should have been found not guilty of the
charges, while the remaining 4 percent want their case
tried legally. No details have been disclosed about the
charges against any of the 208 "taken in for
President of France on an unexpected visit
French President Emmanuel Macron unexpectedly shows
up in Saudi Arabia, after a visit to the United Arab
Emirates where a daughter museum for the Louvre in Paris
has just been inaugurated. In Riyadh, Macron meets Crown
Prince Mohammed. The President emphasizes the importance
of stability in Lebanon, to which France has
historically been closely linked, in the light of the
deteriorating relations between Saudi Arabia and
"Anti-corruption efforts have only begun"
The purges are said to continue as yet another
leading businessman is arrested, more bank accounts are
frozen and a list is drawn up with names of people who
are prohibited from leaving the country. Saudi State
Prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb says the efforts against
corruption have only begun.
Robot attack against Riyadh
The Saudi air defense shoots down a long-range robot
that was about to hit Riyadh's international airport.
The robot came from Yemen and is said to be the first to
fire the huthirebells against the Saudi capital, which
lies up to 100 km north of the border. Two days later,
Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of being behind the attack,
closing the air, sea and land border to Yemen as a
result. The UN shortly afterwards appeals for the
blockade to be lifted, as it strikes hard on supplies of
supplies to the crisis-hit Yemen.
Big hit against financial elite
Eleven princes, four ministers and dozens of former
ministers are arrested, in what is officially described
as a broad anti-corruption effort. The strike is
described as the most extensive against leading people
in modern history and causes great resurrection. Many
judges see it as a way for Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman to strengthen his grip on power. Earlier in the
day, the King stated that the Crown Prince was leading a
newly formed commission with the task of combating
corruption. Among those who are arrested and get their
bank accounts frozen are Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the
world's richest men who owns shares in Citigroup and
Twitter, among others. At the same time, it is reported
that a son of the former King Abdullah is being
petitioned as head of the National Guard and that the
naval chief and the finance minister are also replaced.
After a few days, about 200 people are reported to have
Lebanon's Prime Minister resigns - in Saudi Arabia
During a visit to Saudi Arabia, Lebanese Prime
Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly announces his
departure. Hariri, who is also a Saudi citizen, states
that he feels threatened with life in his home country
and points out the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement. Many
interpret Hariri's message as part of the ongoing power
struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and some
Lebanese claim that Hariri is acting on direct orders
from the Saudis and cannot move freely. A month later,
however, Hariri is back in Lebanon and withdraws her
application for departure.
Women should be allowed in three sports arenas
In another sign that new winds are blowing, it is
announced that “families” - including women included -
will, from 2018, visit three arenas in the major cities
of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. The arenas that were
previously open only to men will be equipped with
restaurants, cafes and video surveillance. The decision
is expected to provoke anger - sharp criticism has
occurred after women were allowed to participate in the
national day celebration in Riyadh in September, in what
was then considered a one-off phenomenon.
Economic zone is planned
A huge and independent economic zone will be built on
the Red Sea, announces Crown Prince Mohammed. The aim is
to broaden the economic base in Saudi Arabia and reduce
oil dependency, in line with Vision 2030. This is a new
mega city, called Neom, which will lie along the coast
in the northwest and extend into Jordan and Egypt. Saudi
Arabia will invest $ 500 billion in Neom, which will
operate independently of Saudi regulations and where
foreign investors are also welcome.
The UN accuses Saudi Arabia of killing children
Saudi Arabia and the other warring parties in Yemen
are included on a UN list of violations of children's
rights in armed conflicts. The Saudi-led alliance is
blamed for 683 children killed or injured in 2016, and
for 38 attacks on schools and hospitals. These are
attacks that the UN has verified. The rebel side is
accused of 414 killed and injured children. The
Saudi-led alliance was temporarily included in the 2016
list, but it changed after Saudi criticism (see June
2016). Now, the list also includes a list of parties
that have taken measures to protect children, and Saudi
Arabia and its allies are also included there. The war
in Yemen has cost around 10,000 people their lives.
Women get the right to drive a car
King Salman announces that the ban on women driving a
car should be abolished. From June 2018, women will be
able to take a driving license. Thus, Saudi Arabia
becomes the last country in the world to allow women to
drive. The decision is greeted with cheers and ovations
widely but especially by the women who for many years
have campaigned for the right to drive. Some of the
women have been jailed after driving illegally and
posted pictures of this on social media. However, not
everyone is satisfied. A few hours after the decision
became known, the hashtag "the women of my house will
not drive" becomes one of the most popular on Twitter in
Saudi Arabia, says The Economist. Whether women's
driving will require permission from a male relative is
Premiere for women at the sports arena
For the first time ever, women are allowed into a
sports arena. It happens when National Day is celebrated
at Kung Fahd Stadium in the capital Riyadh. Hundreds of
women take the opportunity to buy a ticket to the event
at the stadium. However, the women are not allowed to
sit with the men.
Relief and ban on the internet
The authorities announce the ban on using Skype and
Whatsapp to be lifted in order to facilitate business.
It happens a few days after the Internet app Snapchat,
at the Saudi request, agreed to block content from the
Qatari TV company al-Jazira for users in Saudi Arabia.
When the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar broke
out in June 2017, al-Jazira's office in Saudi Arabia was
closed. Since then, the company's website has been
inaccessible from Saudi Arabia.
Amnesty criticizes wave of arrests
The human rights organization Amnesty International
accuses the government of having arrested dozens of
people for political reasons over the past week. Among
the arrested are journalists, academics, activists and
two well-known jurists: Salman al-Awdah and Awad
al-Qarni. According to Amnesty, the human rights
situation has deteriorated significantly in the country
since Mohammed bin Salman was appointed crown prince in
June. In the days following Amnesty's statements, two
prominent human rights activists are arrested: Abdulaziz
al-Shubaily and Issa al-Hamid who co-founded Acpra (see
May 2016 and March 2013).
Both were at liberty awaiting the courts to decide on
appeals from previous judgments. Acpra was formed in
2009 but was banned by the authorities in 2013.
Shia Muslim city barred
Security forces have blocked the city of al-Awamiya
in Qatif, where clashes with protesters have been going
on for several months (see also June 2017).
Authorities have previously stated that parts of
al-Awamiya have been shut down, but Human Rights Watch
now states that it applies to the entire city. According
to the human rights group, satellite imagery shows that
the city has suffered extensive devastation.
Nobel laureates appeal to the doomed
12th of August
Ten peacekeepers in an open letter are calling on the
Saudi authorities to refrain from executing 14 Shi'ite
Muslims sentenced to death for crimes linked to protests
against the regime in the province of Qatif. The Supreme
Court ruled in July and sentenced the same month to
Riyadh. Human rights organizations have criticized the
mass trial against the men who are alleged to have been
tortured. Among the signatories of the letter are South
African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Iranian lawyer Shirin
Eadi, Yemeni activist Twakul Karman and Polish former
president and trade union leader Lech Wałęsa.
Huge tourist project launched
About 50 formerly unspoilt islands in the Red Sea
will be transformed into an exclusive tourist resort,
announces Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of
the General Investment Fund. According to the plans, the
first phase of construction will be completed by the end
of 2022. Laws that correspond to an "international
standard" should prevail, which means, among other
things, that women will be allowed to wear a bikini on
the beach. The project is part of Vision 2030 (see
Qatari "terror list" is published
Saudi Arabia, together with Bahrain, Egypt and the
United Arab Emirates, publishes a "black list" of
terrorist-accused organizations and individuals with
links to Qatari authorities. There are nine individuals
and nine charities and media organizations.
Turkey mediates in the Qatari crisis
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets King
Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed in Jeddah to discuss
Qatar. Turkey has stood on Qatar's side and is trying to
mediate in the conflict. Turkey has also rushed plans to
set up a military base in Qatar and now has 150 soldiers
in the country. It will be Turkey's first base in the
Changes in the safety device
King Salman issues a series of decrees on changes in
the country's security organization. The
counter-terrorism unit merges with the domestic
intelligence service and becomes a single entity. The
royal bodyguard force gets a new boss, and Crown Prince
Mohammad bin Salman gets several new advisers. King
Salman says the changes are taking place in light of the
recent deteriorating relations in the region.
Shi'ite Muslim territory is demolished
Authorities are beginning to demolish several
centuries-old housing in the Shi'ite Muslim city of al-Awamiya.
The residential area is suspected to be a hangout for
militant opponents. In 2017, six security police, six
opponents and a number of civilians were killed in
clashes in the area now being demolished.
The king appoints son to crown prince
King Salman appoints his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef
and appoints his son Mohammed bin Salman as new crown
prince. The 31-year-old son thus also becomes Deputy
Prime Minister and continues as Defense Minister. Prince
Mohammed bin Nayif, 57, is also deprived of the post of
Head of Home Security.
Improved relations with Iraq
Saudi Arabia and Iraq announce that they will set up
a Coordination Council to upgrade their relations. The
message comes the day after a meeting between Saudi
Arabia's King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Relations with Qatar are broken
Saudi Arabia breaks diplomatic relations with Qatar
and closes the border, bans Qatari flights over its
airspace and orders home nationals from neighboring
countries. Several allies in the region are doing the
same: Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Yemen
and the Maldives. Qatar is accused of supporting IS and
al-Qaeda. In the background, there is Saudi
dissatisfaction with Qatar's support for the Muslim
Brotherhood, al-Jazira and Iran. Judges also believe
that the Saudi leadership feels stronger after Trump's
visit and his clear designation of Iran.
US President Donald Trump comes to Saudi Arabia on
his first trip abroad since taking office in January.
Both King Salman and Trump, in their speeches, both
point Iran to mainstream Islamist terrorism. Trump also
urges Muslim leaders in general to take the lead in the
fight against Islamist terrorism and drive the
terrorists out of holy places and from the face of the
Relief for women is reported
The restrictions on what women in Saudi Arabia may do
without a male guardian's permission should be reduced,
reports Saudi media. According to a decree from King
Salman, women no longer need permission to use public
services, "if there is no legal basis" according to
Islam for that, it is called.
Saudi Arabia in the UN Women's Commission
The criticism is harsh in many respects when it is
reported that Saudi Arabia, in a closed vote, has been
selected as one of 45 countries in the UN Women's
Commission. Saudi Arabia will thus participate in the
UN's work to increase gender equality.
The king on a tour of Asia
King Salman embarks on a three-week tour of Asia,
with a delegation of around 1,000 people and 460 tonnes
of trailers. The purpose is primarily to discuss
investment opportunities. The trip includes visits to
Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, China and the Maldives.
The oil minister praises Trump
Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih welcomes new President
Donald Trump's plans to reorient US energy policy more
towards fossil fuels.