Attacks on the Press
| Saudi Arabia
Saudi authorities maintained a suffocating atmosphere of censorship as they further tightened the country's highly restrictive media law. In May, a royal decree amended five articles of the law, barring the publication of any material that contravened Sharia law, impinged on state interests, promoted foreign interests, harmed public order or national security, or enabled criminal activity. In January, the Kingdom issued new regulations for online media that included several restrictive and vaguely worded provisions that grant the Ministry of Culture and Information sweeping powers to censor news outlets and sanction journalists. The government withdrew the accreditation of Riyadh-based Reuters correspondent Ulf Laessing in March, apparently angered by his coverage of a pro-reform protest. Reuters stood by the reporting. The same month, amid popular uprisings across the region, authorities banned three critical columnists working for the government-controlled daily Al-Watan. Authorities did not cite a reason, but all three had written about the region's political unrest. In late year, as demonstrations broke out in the kingdom's eastern province, authorities blocked local and international journalists from gaining access to the region. With a few exceptions, the demonstrations went uncovered.