Interesting article today in Gulfnews about bloggers in The Sandbox pushing the proverbial envelope where "Blogging provides a rare platform for speech in a country which has no elected parliament, where clerics have strong influence on public opinion..." Some are blogging to "be a part of the change that is taking place in the country..." says Ahmad Al Omran who blogs at Saudi Jeans. Two recent posts at his place are about a blogger-get-together in Jeddah where Fuad Al Farhan [also spelled Fouad Al Farhan] voiced his opinion saying, "Now for the first time we, as individuals in our society, have this power in our hands to call for change." Fuad Al Farhan stopped blogging when he was arrested and held for five months, "after campaigning on behalf of nine detained reformers," in 2007.
According to Saudi researchers "there are up to 10,000 blogs in the kingdom. But many are now inactive or have refrained from discussing politics since Al Farhan's arrest." I did not follow the story of Fuad Al Farhan's arrest closely enough to comment or opine on the issue. Google shows 217,000 results for anyone that is interested.
The article states that "Many blogs also steer clear of Islam, a sensitive issue, focusing more on daily life and challenges for society." I know it is a topic I steer clear of. Not going there. Ever. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the subject, but I, personally, do not feel that my blog is the place for it. A spokesman for the information ministry, Abdul Rahman Al Hazza said, "blogs were generally not monitored." Well, okay then. We've got that cleared up. However, "bloggers are worried about a law enacted earlier this year under which anyone who 'touches upon the general order, religious values, or general conduct' can be prosecuted." If blogs are "generally not monitored" how is the law going to be enforced, then? Just curious.
"The Committee to Protect Journalists listed Saudi Arabia in April as one of the worst countries for bloggers, citing detentions, monitoring and blocking of 400,000 websites." I cannot attest to whether or not is is one of the worst countries for bloggers, and other than Fuad Al-Farhan being detained I am not aware of anyone else being in the same situation. That 400,000 websites are blocked hardly comes as a surprise though. There are so many inocuous sites that are blocked that it can be incredibly frustrating for someone who is trying to research something, or for someone just trying to shop on line. Blocked websites I do know about. That happens almost daily!