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News website blocked after posting story on WikiLeaks documents

(ANHRI/IFEX) – 9 December 2010 – The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) today strongly denounced the blocking of the news website "Elaph". "Elaph" is an online political news site owned by the Saudi journalist Othman al Omair. No reason was given for why the website was blocked and no government department claimed responsibility for this decision.

On 6 December, Internet users trying to access were surprised to find the message "Sorry, this site is unavailable".

The blocking could be due to the website's management policy, which is contrary to the policies of the Saudi government. "Elaph" was blocked once before by the Saudi Telecommunications Regulation Authority for allegedly promoting ideas contrary to Islam and defaming Islamic figures. The blocking was lifted after some time.

"Elaph" recently posted an article with the headline, "Gulf after WikiLeaks storm: Riyadh speaks while all others are silent". The article was about the Gulf countries' embarrassment, namely Saudi Arabia, after WikiLeaks posted a document in which Saudi diplomats are seen urging the United States to attack nuclear reactors in Iran.

ANHRI said, "Although the Saudi government did not claim responsibility for blocking "Elaph" or provide reasons for why it was blocked, it is nonetheless a fact that Saudi Arabia and Tunisia top the list of Arab countries that are hostile to the internet. It is normal that the Saudi government would not justify blocking decisions."

ANHRI added, "Differences in opinions and views is no excuse to assault freedom of expression and the right to access information. The value of freedom of expression is in endorsing different views, not only similar ones."

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