Commonly known as the land of liquid gold, Saudi Arabia is a country where journalists suffer from lack of freedom.
The Kingdom is ranked 169 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, according to Reports Without Borders, a media watchdog.
Also, Freedom House, an NGO that promotes political freedom and human rights, rated Saudi Arabia seven out of 100 on a descending scale of freedom in its 2019 freedom report.
Saudi Arabia does not tolerate any kind of independent media. The royal family controls all the media in the country.
The internet is the only place where news can be published without permission from the government. Online users might be sentenced to death for posting for a negative comment on the royal family.
Since the appointment of Mohammed Bin Salman as the prince crown in July 2017, the number of imprisoned bloggers and journalists have increased. According to the watchdog’s report, The Kingdom has retreated one ranking since 2017.
The recent murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul denotes a further fall in the upcoming 2019 freedom reports. Khashoggi was always a sharp critic of the royal family, especially focusing his criticism on Bin Salman in 2018.
After the killing of Khashoggi, the Saudi government has been at the center of the international spotlight. The EU, U.S., Canada and many other countries have criticized the nonexistent press freedom and roundly condemned the royal family’s actions.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the number of journalists jailed in Saudi Arabia has doubled since 2017, with at least 16 men and women behind bars.
Charges like blasphemy, insulting religion, and defaming the king and the state are usually brought against journalists who try to show the reality of the country.
Barbaric punishments are used inside The Kingdom’s prisons. Flogging with sticks, rods, cables, and ropes is the most common punishment for any crime.
The executioners also use more horrible torturing methods like applying hot pepper on open wounds, sleep and medicines deprivation, slapping and kicking, pouring cold water on the body, and insulting as well as cursing the prisoners.
Being located in the Middle East, specifically in the Gulf States, does not help to improve the country’s freedom level. Countries in the area even have a lower ranking than The Kingdom in the World Press Freedom Index.
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Cynthia Addoumieh is a JMC major student who wants to be a war correspondent and political documentary film-maker.