Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The right to remain silent

by Abeer Mishkhas from The Guardian (UK)

In Saudi Arabia it's understood that you can write in the papers about a sensitive issue until you are told not to, or until it appears too dangerous for the publication to go on. When it comes to official bodies, and especially the judiciary, you can only write in the most general terms. Even in editorials, writers have to be very careful about using strong language, or directly naming individuals and organizations. The Saudi ministry of justice has made it clear in a statement that the media is meddling in things that they do not fully understand, accusing them of inciting public anger and of being too emotional. This statement has put the lid on any further articles to come. Most Saudi newspapers have abstained from carrying any commentary on the [gang rape] case; it has become an untouchable subject. Only English newspapers published in the Kingdom can talk about it, albeit cautiously, perhaps because they have a limited audience and won't spark off any controversy. The coverage of the case has become formal and one sided, allowing the pro-verdict scholars, judges and officials an ample airing of their opinions. One judge has even launched a full frontal attack on the rape victim, saying that if it had been up to him, he would have issued a death sentence against her and her "partners," meaning the rapists themselves. Such opinions now have to go unchallenged.

No comments: