The latest announcement from the spokesperson of the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information Abdulrahman Al Hazzaa has created a storm of reactions on social media websites and blogs. The announcement stated that all Saudi Arabian web publishers and online media, including blogs and forums, will need to be officially registered with the government. Both Saudis and non Saudis protested the new law. On Twitter, the protest ran under the hashtag #haza3 – which refers to the ministry official’s last name.
Below are some of the reactions.
In his blog, Crossroads Arabia John Burgess describes the decision as controlling:
Once upon a time, the Saudi Ministry of Culture & Information was able to control what people said and heard through the media. It basically owned it all, if not literally, then through a tight hand on the controls. Newer media has made that level of control impossible, much as that disappoints some.
From Twitter iamsoos felt sorry for her blog:
مدونتي العزيزة أرسل لك باقات التعزية والأسى ! فأنت مخالفة .. ابتعدي عن اشارات المراقبة فأنتِ بلاتصريح #Haza3My dear blog, I send you my condolences. You're not licensed!
Others decided to be sarcastic about the whole issue. kabdu says:
انا قررت إني أفتح مدونه في النت لوق , إيش الأوراق المطلوبة ؟؟ #Haza3I decided to start my own Netblog, what are the the official forms I am supposed to fill?
and Fouad Alfarhan adds:
من يسجل مدونته ومعلوماته عند وزارة الإعلام اختياريا كما قالوا هو مثل من يبلغ وزارة المياه بجدول أوقات استحمامه #Haza3Those who optionally register their blogs and information with the Ministry of Information as they say, should also report their shower times to the Ministry of Water
and Abdulaziz Fagih suggests a new law:
نطمح من الدولة بأصدار خطة مستقبلية لجعل دخول الحمامات بتصريح رسمي أو مرسوم ملكي لحامله #KSA #Haza3We want the government to issue a future plan to make going to toilets permissible only after getting official or royal orders
Moreover, the announcement has gotten many bloggers upset. In her blog, Saudi Women questions Saudi citizen's freedom of speech:
Aren’t our freedoms curbed enough? Am I going to need written permission from my guardian to maintain this blog? Do I need a paper from work too? Do I have to run everything by the ministry before posting? How about if instead of blogging, bloggers wrote the exact same stuff in consecutive Tweets and on Facebook notes, what are they going to do about that? Are we supposed to register our Facebook and Twitter accounts too?
Likewise, Sultan Aljumairy express his disturbance in a very angry blog post:
إلى أي نقطة تاريخية يراد بنا أن نعود ! حتى الكلام كثير علينا !To which point in history do they want us to return? Even expressing ourselves is too much now
As a result of the huge storm of reactions, the next day Al-Hazzaa denied that there will be any form of registration required from bloggers and forum owners. He added that the new regulation will only be applied to electronic newspapers. The ministry claims that the spokesperson Al Hazzaa was misunderstood.
The denial has sparked reactions on new media and its effectiveness on the officials.
Fawaz Saad points how Twitter is now a powerful tool:
تراجع سريع! تويتر صار يخوف #NewE3lam #haza3Quick back out! Twitter is scary
While some wondered why the denial came from foreign Press.
Samar Almoossa says:
#Haza3 استغربت أن يأتي النفي من وكالة الأنباء الفرنسية ، ليس لدينا وكالة أنباء وقنوات ؟ آم الرسالة عالمية ولا شأن للشعب فيها ؟I was surprised the denial came from AFP, don't we have local news agencies? Or this is an international message which we the citizens have nothing to do with?
Finally, Alfarhan suggests a loophole for electronic newspapers:
لو كنت صاحب صحيفة إلكترونية لأعدت تقديمها على أنها مدونة جماعية تهرباً من طلب التصريح #Haza3If I were the owner of an electronic newspaper I would have introduced it as a group blog to evade the permit application