RIYADH – A Saudi official denied Friday that bloggers and web forums would be forced to register under a new electronic media law, after remarks he made sparked outrage among Saudi Internet users.
Ministry of Information domestic media supervisor Abdulrahman Al-Hazzaa clarified that the new law will require on-line news sites to be licensed, but would only encourage bloggers and others to register.
“We are not putting it in our mind to license them. There are so many we cannot control them,” he said of the thousands of Saudi bloggers and online forum operators.
He said remarks he made Thursday on Al-Arabiya television about registering blogs were misunderstood, that this would only be voluntary.
“It’s not required, no; it’s not in the plan,” he was quoted as saying by a news agency.
His original remarks sparked an uproar among Facebook and Twitter users.
Hazzaa said that new regulations being finalized are mainly to give his department supervisory authority over electronic media, as it has over traditional print and broadcast media and publishing in Saudi Arabia. He said there are more than 100 news websites, and that licensing them would permit their reporters to take part in regular media activities alongside traditional media.
“For the e-press, these are more related to our job,” he said.
The new regulations would also give the ministry authority over Internet-related defamation cases, which it currently has for print and broadcast media.
But Hazzaa said it is futile for his office to try to supervise the content of blogs and social media like Facebook pages. “The day I shut a site, tomorrow they will open it by a new name,” he said. – Agencies