10 Most Censored Countries – Committee to Protect Journalists
4. Saudi Arabia
Leadership: King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, in power since 2015. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in power since 2017.
How censorship works: Under Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s already-repressive environment for the press has suffered sharp deterioration. Anti-terror and cybercrime laws and specialized courts give authorities free rein to imprison journalists and bloggers who stray from the pro-government narrative; 16 journalists were behind bars as of December 1, 2018. Saudi authorities detained at least nine additional journalists in the first half of 2019 alone. At least four of the journalists detained under bin Salman’s crackdown have been abused and tortured in Saudi prisons, according to medical assessments prepared for King Salman and leaked to The Guardian newspaper. Under a 2011 regulation, websites, blogs, and anyone posting news or commentary online must have a license from the Ministry of Culture and Information. Authorities have expanded control over digital content, where the use of cybersurveillance is ubiquitous, according to The Washington Post. According to reports in The New York Times and other sources, the authorities utilize surveillance technology and troll and bot armies to suppress coverage and discussion of sensitive topics, including the war in Yemen, and to allegedly monitor dissident Saudi journalists. Saudi authorities block websites they deem objectionable, as well as access to VPN providers that would bypass blocks, according to Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report. Foreign correspondents do report from Saudi Arabia, but authorities are capricious in granting entry and international reporters often face restrictions on their movements, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.
Lowlight: In October 2018, Saudi agents–including those connected to bin Salman–brutally murdered Washington Post columnist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, after luring him there to obtain paperwork. A June 2019 UN report called the murder a “premeditated execution” for which the Saudi government “is responsible,” and called for an investigation into bin Salman’s role.People holding pictures of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi attend a symbolic funeral prayer for Khashoggi at the courtyard of Fatih mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, on November 16, 2018. Khashoggi’s murder is one of the most extreme examples of the Saudi regime’s recent crackdown on the independent press. (Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir)