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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia declares heavy penalties for offensive satire on social media

Saudi prosecutors say they will punish satire on social media that “mocks, provokes or disrupts public order, religious values and public morals”.

The punishment could be up to five years in prison and $800,000 (SAR 3 million) fine. “Producing and distributing content that ridicules, mocks, provokes and disrupts public order, religious values and public morals through social media … will be considered a cybercrime punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of SR3 million,” the Public Prosecution said in a recent tweet.

Prosecutors have in the past used the Gulf kingdom’s anti-cybercrime law to prosecute critics of the government. However, the latest announcement emphasises that satire can now also get social media users in serious trouble.

The prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty in the case against a Muslim Brotherhood supporter.

In September 2017, authorities issued a public call for citizens to report on the social media activities of their fellow citizens, under a broad definition of ‘terrorist’ crimes.

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said it was seeking the death penalty in the case against Sheikh Salman al-Awda, a prominent Islamist cleric arrested last year along with 20 others.

 

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