Saudi Government to Block 1,400 Local News Sites

The Saudi government is going to block access to 1,400 unlicensed local news websites, an official said. Tariq al-Khatrway, head of the e-publishing department at the Ministry of Culture and Information (MOCI), told the attendees of a panel on new media in Riyadh that his department has observed more than 2,000 local news websites in the country, noting that only 600 sites have been granted licenses from the ministry, the daily al-Hayat reported Thursday.

As more Saudi citizens began to depend on online news sources, many local news sites have appeared in recent years. The government, which exerts control over traditional media, moved to regulate the online news scene through demanding these sites to apply for licenses in order to continue operating or risk being blocked. MOCI announced on the first day of 2011 amending the current publishing law with a new set of regulations for online media.