Recent social media news in the Middle East involves the arrest of two bloggers as well as one human rights activist in Saudi Arabia. The arrests follow new stricter free speech laws issued by King Abdullah bin Abd al-’Aziz on April 29.
Fadhil Makki al-Manasif, the human rights activist, was arrested on May 1 for participating in demonstrations against the government. Al-Manasif also documented cases of human rights violations. More than 20 other demonstrators were arrested by Saudi authorities over the past week.
Bloggers Mustafa al-Badr Al Mubarak and Husain Kazim al-Hashim were arrested for violating the new laws by participating in and blogging about these peaceful protests.
A series of bans starting in 2011 have increasingly worked towards curtailing the Saudi subject’s free speech and expression. In March, Prince Nayef bin Abd al-’Aziz and the Council of Senior Religious Scholars reiterated the outlawing of demonstrations.
On April 29, King Abdullah amended the Press and Publications Law which now prohibits anything that the authorities feel disturbs or compromises the country’s security, public order or national interests. An article by Human Rights Watch also pointed out that the new restrictions prohibit anything that violates the “reputation, dignity or slander or libel” of religious and government authorities or institutions.
In the beginning of 2011, a decree extended the Press and Publications law to the Internet realm, making it illegal for anything not approved by the government to be published online. The monarchy seems to be doing its best to control all avenues where dissent may be expressed, perhaps with good reason seeing the power of social media in Egypt.