Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Saudi Arabia intends to punish those who use satire online with the aim of “mocking, provoking or distorting public order, religious values and public morality”. In a note signed by the prosecutor, it emerges that those who produce or share prohibited material will be allowed up to five years in prison and a fine of 800 thousand dollars.
Already in the past the government had exploited the laws against cybercrime to target dissidents and critical voices against the government and the highest religious and institutional authorities of the country. However, this latest announcement shows once more the iron fist used by Riyadh against those who satire or use the internet to share non-conformist ideas.
Since last year the government leadership has implemented a very harsh campaign against those who demand greater rights and freedom within society. There are dozens of arrests of critical voices or people “suspected” of entertaining “ties” with “foreign realities” and of providing financial support to “foreign enemies”. So far none of the arrested persons have been indicted; activists are locked up in isolation cells and do not have contact with their families or lawyers.
These include female activists, human rights defenders, leading religious leaders of overly “reformist” and intellectual views. Measures that contrast with the flaunted openings and a series of reforms promoted in the context of the “Vision 2030” program wanted by the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs). And they confirm, once again, how the Saudi kingdom remains an absolute Wahhabi monarchy, in which the least dissent is not admitted.
Among the prominent personalities arrested is the 61-year-old religious leader Salman Odah, who has over 14 million followers on Twitter. In recent days, the prosecutor has demanded the death penalty against the man on charges of “sedition” and “revolt”, for publishing a post in which he hoped for “better relations” with Qatar.
The authorities invoked the death penalty against five other activists, including the female leader Israa al-Ghomgham, guilty of having joined anti-government protests promoted by the Shiite minority in Qatif.