Saudi Arabia has announced that online jokes and satire which ‘disrupts public order’ will be punished in new crackdown
In a tweet, the Kingdom’s public prosecutor said, “Producing and spreading content through social media that ridicules, makes fun of, provokes and disturbs public order, religious values and public morality will be considered a cyber crime punishable by up to five years in prison”.
The Independent reports: Those found guilty of distributing content online deemed to “disrupt public order”, would also be subject to a fine of three million riyals (£625,000), the Middle Eastern country’s public prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Twitter.
It said: “Producing and distributing content that ridicules, mocks, provokes and disturbs public order, religious values and public morals through social media will be considered a cybercrime.”
Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing a programme of sweeping reforms in a bid to modernise sections of its deeply conservative society.
Its population is one of the most engaged with social media in the Middle East, but online dissent has been discouraged with the threat of imprisonment.
In 2012, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years behind bar and 1,000 lashes after he was convicted of cybercrimes and insulting Islam.
Mr Badawi was arrested after writing articles on the now banned Free Saudi Liberals website, which he co-founded, criticising Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics and advocating the liberalisation of the country’s austere Wahhabist system.