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Saudi Prince Criminalizes Online Humor

Saudi Prince Criminalizes Online Humor

Make fun of the Saudi government on your Facebook page and you could end up in prison for up to five years. 

As announced Tuesday, any online content which “disrupts public order” is considered a “cybercrime” punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $180,000. 

This also includes pornography, material related to drugs and human trafficking, humor directed at the royal family, and any commentary found to “infringe on religious boundaries and social morals and ethics.” 

The new law, which affects social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat, is the latest in a series of moves by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to silence dissent. 

Salman has attracted international criticism for his crackdown on human rights activists and political dissidents, which has led to dozens of arrests since his appointment in June 2017. Many have been convicted with charges related to dissent based on controversial Twitter posts. 

Salman’s crackdown extends even to the royal family, whose members were rounded up with ministers and businessmen as part of a corruption purge last November. Most were released after reaching undisclosed financial deals with the government. 

Salman’s government on Tuesday also announced it would be seeking the death penalty for Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an Islamist cleric arrested in September 2017 after he refused to publicly support Saudi policies. 

The announcement is a “disturbing trend in the Kingdom [that] sends a horrifying message that peaceful dissent and expression may be met with the death penalty,” argues Amnesty International spokeswoman Dana Ahmed.

The UN has described Awdah as a “reformist” who has pushed for greater respect for human rights under Sharia Law. According to Awdah’s son, the charges against him include controversial tweets and establishing an organization in Kuwait for defending the Prophet Mohammad. 

The cleric had a large following on YouTube and Twitter. 

Editor’s note: I guess we, at the Punching Bag Post, will not be vacationing in Saudi Arabia anytime soon. I’ve been there, no great loss…

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