BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Saturday, 9 November, 2002, 14:31 GMT
Saudis test limits of freedom
Women in black pass men on a Riyadh street
Religious police enforce strict Islamic law in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi media has been full of Ramadan news - but it has also been discussing the crucial decisions made at the United Nations.

The first four items on the Saudi news broadcast I've just watched are about cables of congratulations for Ramadan sent to the royal family. The fifth, halfway down the bulletin, dealt with the UN Security Council decision on Iraq.


It may be too early to talk of a Saudi spring, but there is a new mood of freedom and Saudis are cautiously testing its limits

News in the kingdom is first and foremost about the comings and goings of the royal family, recounted in strict order of precedence:

King Fahd, custodian of the two holy shrines, received yesterday a telephone call from the prime minister of Lebanon.

His Royal Highness, Prince Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, Crown Prince, First Deputy of the Ministerial Council and head of the National Guard, received a telephone call from his majesty the king of Morocco - and so on.

But the political climate in Saudi Arabia is changing, and actual censorship is being replaced by self-censorship.

A girl killed in March's school fire
The deaths of 15 schoolgirls were blamed on the religious police
The former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki, recently wrote an article for the Washington Post about the fire at the school in Mecca in which 15 girls died because the religious police allegedly stopped them from fleeing unveiled - a story of explosive sensitivity here.

But when the Saudi papers translated this piece, they cut several crucial sentences.

Absurdly, Prince Turki was moved to write a letter of protest to his own papers.

Among other things, he pointed out, the article had been about the government's more liberal attitude to the media.

The correspondence columns of the newspapers are beginning to reflect what people have been saying privately about previously unmentionable subjects, such as corruption.

It may be too early to talk of a Saudi spring, but there is a new mood of freedom and Saudis are cautiously testing its limits.

See also:

18 Mar 02 | Middle East
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes