Saudia Arabia – making friends, making enemies

The Saudi regime won’t like this magazine. Nor will the Western governments who kowtow to it while exploiting its wealth and paranoia – which have been on full show recently.

The Saudi justice ministry threatened to sue a Twitter user who compared the regime with ISIS after poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death ‘for spreading atheism and disrespecting the prophet’. This was met with an international #SueMeSaudi campaign.

Saudi Arabia and the WestHumour is a good response to absurd displays of power. But in the kingdom itself, there is little place for it. There is no media independence; it is effectively controlled by the royal family. It’s illegal to speak to foreign journalists without authorization and what you say could easily land you in jail.

Less easy to control is social media, which has a tremendous take-up in Saudi Arabia but is also not without risks. The regime has invested in systems to track users and in digital media itself. One Saudi prince has a five-per-cent – the second largest – share in Twitter, for example.

What is guaranteed to please neither the Saudi ruling elite nor Western governments is our interview with Julian Assange. He talks about the latest batch of SaudiLeaks, the dissemination of which is punishable by 20 years in a Saudi jail. So do spread the word.

Elsewhere, we uncover a Nepalese orphanage scam and we profile Kholoud Waleed, a former teacher battling for freedom of speech in war-torn Syria.

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