Arab News runs a piece on the problems photojournalists face in Saudi Arabia. While Saudi law does prohibit photographing certain places for security reasons, Saudi culture is far more widely averse to having pictures taken. Most of the professionals find a way to get around the problems—usually by talking to the people who might be caught in the frame—but sometimes ignorance of the law just prevents the shot.
One photographer says he uses Photoshop to ‘put in backgrounds’. I think that’s a pretty horrible way to go about it as it leaves every photograph, by every photographer, open to charges of editing to promote an agenda.
The right to photograph isn’t restricted only in Saudi Arabia, properly or not. Both the US and UK have seen authorities go far beyond what the law restricts, often ending up in both civil and criminal trials. One trial, concluded earlier this week in the state of Maryland, saw a judge overturn an indictment against a motorcyclist who recorded his being stopped by an out-of-uniform police officer for traffic law violations. The policeman (and the state) claimed that the recording violated the state’s wiretapping laws. The judge found quite otherwise.
Photographers struggle to take photos in public
RIMA AL-MUKHTAR, LIFE.STYLE@ARABNEWS.COM
It’s hard to be a Saudi photographer, thanks to problems that arise when police or citizens raise objections to raising the camera. Even people trying to take pictures of their family and friends in public face these problems.
Oday Abid, a Saudi freelance photographer, says the authorities and members of the public are his greatest concern when taking pictures.
“Many of them become emotional and try to stop us, even forcibly,” he said.
The only secure way to take pictures in peace here is to ensure you aren’t pointing the camera at people or at sensitive assets, like government buildings or housing compounds.
“I usually avoid taking pictures in public or in places packed with people because people are always suspicious thinking that I might take pictures of them,” said Saudi photographer Dhahi Al-Ali.