Saturday, January 8, 2011

In the Name of Security, the Most Stifling, the Most Devastating

For the past few days, I have been hearing about the Ministry of Culture and Information here in Saudi and how a new law has been released. It restricts people living in Saudi, especially Saudis themselves, from writing whatever they want online. Saudi Jeans has a pretty good summary of the details.

Every time I have been to Saudi, I have seen censorship. In a sense, it was only a matter of time before the internet was targeted, too. People have already gotten in trouble for things they have done either on their computers or on their mobile phones, so this is just solidifying what certain groups here want to do: hold the Saudi population tightly in their grasp.

Of course, as with every form of censorship, it is done in the name of security. It is done for "protection." Already, several websites here are blocked for this very reason. Tell me, why does PostSecret need to be blocked? What harm is it truly causing me?

Really, guys? PostSecret?

PostSecret isn't the only blocked site, of course. Some sites I cannot get to are SomethingAwful, SpikeTV, Moviefone (not that I really need it), and ANY link that uses tinyurl. It's not just about annoyance - I can totally live without those sites! It is irritating but it also denies us a basic human right. I know people in the US are going to point the finger at me and shout "LIBERTARIAN!" when I say that the government doesn't need to police every damn thing I do on the internet, but seriously, the government does not need to police every damn thing we do on the internet. This isn't only about "protecting" me from what I see, either. This is also about "protecting" others from what I say. What we all have to say is so important, so valuable, that others are afraid of it.

There are so many countries who are trying to "protect" me from danger and "protect" others from me. They instill fear in others and create paranoia. All I have to do is think about international travel and I have plenty of examples of how so many people have been harassed - all in the name of security! Think about the TSA scandals we have been hearing about in the US lately. These cases display the mistreatment of so many people! I also remember hearing about how the Vagina Monologues was banned at a religious university. Apparently, it is to "protect" the students and preserve values. What it is doing instead is protecting a potential audience from hearing about the experience of women around the world. Apparently, hearing the voices of these woman is a security risk. It's completely out of hand, just like this law from the MOCI.

There is one thing that especially irks me. The new law states that Saudis cannot write blogs without prior registration, although foreigners can. The reason I wanted to start blogging in the first place was due to brilliant Saudi minds within Saudi who wrote about their experience. They are the ones who are more likely to write a knowledgeable post about the truth of what happens here. I have read many amazing blogs written by foreigners living here too, but why allow only one voice? This doesn't make sense! I guess the "protection" we are getting is from a certain type of truth; a whole group's reality - just like the banning of the Vagina Monologues.

There are many people tweeting, writing, and trying to fight this. I applaud them for their dedication to the right of free speech. To my friends reading this, I just want to make you more aware. Especially for those reading from countries where you can get everything from porn to news to celebrity gossip without a second thought; from countries where you can write a whole article about how your country's leader looks like an elephant or about how very ugly that girl in your calculus class is -  there's a world out there that doesn't make the same kind of sense.


  1. It's difficult to fight this kind of censorship in a country that already has a great deal of censorship and restrictive laws; it will be very hard to convince the older people in govt. that the internet should remain a wild west when their day to day real life operates under many oppressive laws. They have trouble understanding the internet as being different from real life power and control.

    The M.E. presence online is a burgeoning and important one, which may spearhead wider social changes in those countries someday. Keep fighting!! The world deserves to hear your voice, and it is sad that Saudi authorities want to prune the diverse gifts their many citizens could offer the world online.

  2. quite disgusting.....
    a well written blog....

  3. Thank you ajitbiomed and Anonymous for your comments and kind words. I hope that by the time I leave here, or even when I am gone, that measures are taken in order to stop the muffling of voices.