Saudi Newspapers Say the Arrest of Buraida Protesters is “Cleansing”

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Following the arrest of more than 150 protesters in Buraida early Friday, local newspapers came out today with strong headlines condemning the protests on their front pages. The newspapers called the protesters “liars” and accused them of using women and children to “slander security forces and create chaos.” Both al-Eqtisadiah and al-Sharq used the word “cleansing” in their headlines to describe the arrests. The Jeddah-based daily Okaz used a picture of a burning car with one of their stories about the arrests, despite the fact that no such incident has been reported in Buraida.

Such reporting on protests is not unusual in the government-controlled Saudi media, but the use of words like “cleansing” and burning car pictures has raised eyebrows among some local media observers on Twitter. “Biased, manifestly unprofessional Saudi newspapers are only meant to make you feel queasy,” said Mahmoud Sabbagh, an author and filmmaker. Fahad Al Gherire, editor of media criticism site Mnshour, said the use of the word “cleansing” by the newspapers suggests that the protesters are “scum.” By doing that, the newspapers have chosen to abandon professionalism and express their opinion instead, he said.

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