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ANHRI condemns blocking of Radio Netherlands Wordwide Arabic website

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 14 August 2011 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemns Saudi Arabia's insistence on adopting a policy of blocking websites and playing the role of guardian of the Saudi people, repressing their right to receive information and their freedom of expression and freedom of opinion.

When they attempted to log onto the Arabic version of Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW), Internet users in Saudi Arabia were shocked by a message saying the site had been blocked, without stating the reasons why the authorities took the step. Observers, however, interpret the move as a reaction to the posting of information on the mistreatment of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, accompanied by a video of a Saudi man beating an Asian worker on the Huna Amsterdam website on 15 July.

ANHRI views the actions of the Saudi authorities as an infringement on two fundamental rights. First, the government violated the right of citizens to receive information. Second, it violated the publisher's right to freedom of expression. Instead of acting against those who publicised the information, Saudi authorities should have investigated the incidents of ill treatment of foreign workers and verified the authenticity of the video.

"The Saudi authorities are determined to move steadily against the winds of change that have blown across the region as a direct consequence of the Arab Spring, which started at the beginning of this year and has led to many changes in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. Not only has the Saudi government diplomatically or militarily participated in suppressing protests that took place in other Arab countries, as it did in the protests in Bahrain, but it also insists on maintaining its position as the most hostile country to the Internet in the Arab region, and the fastest to block websites," said ANHRI.

ANHRI warns the Saudi authorities against the ongoing repression of freedoms and against contravening regional and international conventions. Sooner or later, the citizens of Saudi Arabia will find a way to express their opinions. Blocking websites to muzzle people will not succeed as modern technologies provide the means by which to avoid censorship and control. It would be better and safer for the Saudi government to refrain from closing the channels of peaceful expression of opinion.

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