Editorial: Freedom of the Press

The recent news that a Saudi female columnist had been suspended from her job for over a month was nothing new. It is by no means unknown for a Saudi writer to be banned from writing for an unspecified period. The banning might be due to anything — from criticizing corruption or mismanagement by some high official to writing about something deemed “sensitive” or objectionable. In the latest incident, the writer criticized a senior manager in a major Saudi financial institution. The manager consequently threatened the paper with pulling the institution’s advertising from the paper. Such extortion and financial pressure brought to bear on a paper weakens its value and compromises its function as a purveyor of information. No newspaper should be subjected to this kind of blackmail which is not only unethical but also distinctly un-Islamic.

This Arab News editorial follows up on a story printed earlier (blogged here), about a woman journalist who was suspended from her job for writing an article critical of an advertiser. Separating Editorial from News from Advertising is a problem some American papers are still having. It’s heartening to see that the Saudi media is rallying behind her.

UPDATE: There’s a pertinent article over at the Professor Bainbridge blog discussing professional ethics on the part of American media companies. He cites journalists complaining about having articles “spiked” due to political or corporate conflicts of interest.

November:30:2004 - 01:17 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Kingdom to Raise Oil Output Capacity to 12.5m bpd: Naimi

Khalil Hanware, Arab News

JEDDAH, 30 November 2004 — Saudi Arabia plans to raise its oil production capacity to 12.5 million barrels per day from the current 11 million bpd over the next few years, Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi said yesterday.

This seems to be a response to the rapidly increasing global demand for petroleum. While the Saudis could get by with lower-than-current production in terms of oil income, they need to balance their direct needs with their extended needs. The Saudis have something approaching $1 Trillion invested around the world. Having the global economy tank due to high oil prices would actually hurt the Saudis pretty hard.

November:30:2004 - 01:14 | Comments Off | Permalink

Don’t Miss This Opportunity

Saad Al-Dosari • Al-Riyadh

Due to work constraints, I was unable to register to vote in the coming municipal election until three days after the start of the registration process. On the third day I went to register and learned that only 38 people had registered to vote. And this despite an extensive media campaign which involved newspaper advertisements and articles, posters along roads as well as signs indicating every registration center.

Based on this article, translated from the Arabic daily Al-Riyadh, voter registration is going slowly in Saudi Arabia. This is a good article that explains why it’s important to take part. And most important of all is that people demanded participatory government and are now being given a taste of it. While I don’t expect a lot of exhortation coming from the preachers, I do expect many more articles like this one.

November:30:2004 - 01:10 | Comments Off | Permalink

GCC Countries Get Favorable FATF Ratings

Mazen Mahdi, Arab News

MANAMA, 30 November 2004 — The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been able to deny terrorists the use of their financial facilities and achieve positive ratings internationally in the fight against money laundering a top Bahraini financial security official said.

The FATF is spearheading the efforts to adopt and implement measures designed to counter the use of the financial system by criminals. It has established a series of FATF Recommendations in 1990 that set out the basic framework for anti-money laundering efforts that are intended to be of universal application. The FATF issued new international standards to combat terrorist financing — an additional eight recommendations.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an international association (run by the Treasury Dept. in the US) that monitors the flow of money around the world and tries to ensure that it doesn’t make its way to criminals (e.g. drug dealers). In 1991, its mission was expanded to handle money laundering that was profiting terrorists. They issued a set of 30 proposals (PDF document)last year, that spell out the steps believed necessary to get control over this issue.

The Gulf Cooperation Council includes all the nations bordering the Persian/Arabian Gulf excepting Iraq and Iran.

November:30:2004 - 01:02 | Comments Off | Permalink

A Sex-Change Problem Complicated by Disputes Over Inheritance

The story of a young Saudi man, Ahmad, who has become a woman has created a furor in the Kingdom — not only because he changed his sex but also because, as a man, he inherited a large sum of money from his millionaire father. He changed his sex only after inheriting; according to Islamic law, as a woman, he would inherit half of what a man inherits. His relatives have filed a lawsuit, accusing him of deception and asking the court to re-divide the inheritance. Sayidaty, a sister publication of Arab News, investigatedthe case. The subject’s name as a woman has been withheld at her request.

Sex-change operations are something that many–even in the US–consider disruptive to families. Imagine it in a country so tradition-bound as Saudi Arabia.

This article from Arab News discusses the case of a young Saudi, identified as male at birth, but who realized that “he” was really a “she”. Following her father’s death, she had a sex-change operation. She had inherited–as a male–a male’s portion of part of her father’s estate. When it came time to divide the remainder of the estate–post-operation–problems arose.

One thing that caught my eye in the article was a quote from an Islamic scholar which indicates that he’s truly ignorant of contemporary science on “ambiguously gendered” or “inter-sex” children. The rate of occurence is remarkably high, globally. One estimate, suggests one-in-ten chances of other than normal genitalia. Another suggest one-in-one-hundred. Even if the rate of occurence is not that high, it is certainly higher than “invisible”.

This is an interesting article about a very real clash of realities.

November:29:2004 - 23:59 | Comments Off | Permalink

Slain Terror Suspect Was Wanted for Muhaya Attack

P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 29 November 2004 — The Interior Ministry yesterday identified the slain terror suspect in Saturday’s gunbattle in Jeddah as a wanted terrorist who was one of the plotters of the Muhaya housing compound attack in Riyadh in November 2003, which killed 17 people and wounded more than 120, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

This article gives more details about the event yesterday in which a terrorist was shot and killed in Jeddah. Interesting.

November:29:2004 - 00:32 | Comments Off | Permalink

Finally Everyone Is Bored

Amr Al-Faisal

We’re Bored!

That is what my children and their friends said to me last week. I said to my daughter, “I am disappointed that you should say something like that after your mother and I have raised you to appreciate everything in life and to make use of your time.”

Amr Al-Faisal has an amusing op-ed piece today, looking at the toll that Saudi Arabia’s narrow-mindedness about “culture” is taking. Things are changing, but slowly. Twenty years ago, for example, archeology–particular for the pre-Islamic period–was off-limits. Today, the first exhibit on the ground floor of the Saudi National Museum in Riyadh deals explicitly with that. There are commercial art galleries, if very few public ones. And last year–for the first time in almost 50 years–a entertainment film was shown in public. Of course, it was “Finding Nemo”, and open to families only, but it’s a start….

November:29:2004 - 00:28 | Comments Off | Permalink

Do We Hate Jews and Christians?

Dr. Khaled Batarfi • kbatarfi@al-madina.com

Some of my Jewish readers have doubts.

They suspect that Arabs and Muslims hate them, blaming them for Israel’s misdeeds and past mistakes such as trying to kill God’s prophets and messengers (peace be upon them). They say that Muslims still remember with bitterness how the Jews in Madinah tried to kill the Prophet (pbuh), broke their pact and betrayed him by siding with his enemies.

A good article from Khalid Batarfi, Editor of the Arabic daily Al-Madina. (Not surprisingly, it’s published in that city and has its largest readership there).

Batarfi aims his pen at those Muslims who “cherry pick” quotes from the Quran to find authority for their intolerant views of Christians and Jews. I’ll help him by noting that there are many Americans who do the inverse: they’ll dig through the Quran, the Hadith, and centuries-old laws to find reasons to hate Muslims and Arabs in general, Saudis in particular.

November:28:2004 - 01:36 | Comments & Trackbacks (42) | Permalink

Terror Suspect Killed in Jeddah Gunbattle

Essam Al-Ghalib, Arab News

JEDDAH, 28 November 2004 — Saudi security forces shot dead a suspected terrorist and captured another following a gunbattle here yesterday.

This is just a brief rundown of the facts. Essam Al-Ghalib is a solid reporter. He did excellent reporting from Basrah during the opening period of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Not being embedded, he did so at considerable risk–which he also reported.

November:28:2004 - 01:31 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Businesswomen to Vote for First Time in RCCI Poll

P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 28 November 2004 — Though women will not vote in the coming nationwide municipal elections, some 2,750 Saudi businesswomen are preparing to cast their votes at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry tomorrow to elect board members.

Somebody–or more exactly, some bodies–seem to be making a point here. If women aren’t being permitted to take part in the municipal elections, then they’re certainly going to be taking part in other elections. The Riyadh Chamber of Commerce & Industy (like it’s more influential Jeddah counterpart) has serious clout–much more than an American equivalent would have. And by playing an active, political role in the RCCI elections, they are demonstrating that they are not second class when it comes to political rights. Good job all around!

November:28:2004 - 01:27 | Comments Off | Permalink

Writer Mired in Controversy Resumes Weekly Column

Maha Akeel, Arab News

JEDDAH, 28 November 2004 — Nabila Mahjoob, the veteran writer at Al-Madinah newspaper, has returned to writing her weekly column after being suspended for over a month. Arab News reported her suspension last week but did not mention her name or the paper because the columnist wanted to work things out with the paper quietly before taking further measures.

An interesting article! It seems Ms Mahjoob got herself sideways not with government censors, but with a very important businessman, who leaned on the editor to take action. This sort of echoes what’s happened with some American journalists, radio and TV personalities I can think of. Or maybe the Saudi editorss are following our own FCC’s actions?

November:28:2004 - 01:22 | Comments Off | Permalink

First Ever Movie Filmed in Makkah

PARIS, 28 November 2004 — “Al-Rehla Al-Kubra” (The Big Journey) is the first movie to be filmed in the holy city of Makkah by Moroccan producer Ismaiel Faruki.

It will be aired in France this week, Al-Watan reported.

This is a first, and an important one at that. The sanctity of Mecca is incomparable. To permit filming a commercial production–rather than a news piece or religious propagation film–is an enormous step. It will be interesting to see if the program will be shown in Saudi Arabia.

November:28:2004 - 00:43 | Comments Off | Permalink
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