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Wednesday 17 December  
Saudis can't see RNW websites
Willemien Groot's picture
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Saudi Arabia blocks RNW websites

Published on : 12 August 2011 - 11:08am | By Willemien Groot (Collage: RNW/lintmachine)
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Internet users in Saudi Arabia have been unable to access Radio Netherlands Worldwide websites for the past couple of weeks. People attempting to visit the site are presented with a message stating that the website has been blocked. A possible cause is a video published on the RNW Arabic site which shows a migrant being beaten up in Saudi Arabia.

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The Saudi authorities' message says: Sorry, the requested page is unavailable. If you believe the requested page should not be blocked please click here. The link in the message points to the website of the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC), where unblocking requests can be made. It is unlikely that many web users click on the link. It could lead to an unwanted 'courtesy call' from the authorities.

The video which is assumed to be the cause of the Saudis' displeasure is part of an article published on the RNW Arabic website on 15 July, describing how migrants are abused in Saudi Arabia. In the video a man of Arab appearance is intimidating a man believed to be an Asian, clubbing him with a stick. The person who posted the original video on YouTube commented that the images were shot in Saudi Arabia, although that is impossible to verify. YouTube has removed the video, but a copy is still available on the RNW website. The article generated a massive response on the RNW site and on Facebook.

Earlier this year Radio Netherlands Worldwide exposed the dismal working conditions of domestic staff at the Saudi Embassy in The Hague.  Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to the Netherlands, Waleed Elkereidhi, was accused of exploiting his Filipino employees. He was reported to the police on accusation of people trafficking.

Web statistics show that the number of unique visitors to RNW's Arabic website began to decrease after the publication, followed by a sharp decline later. This points to the Saudis first blocking a few individual pages and then blocking all RNW websites. 

Commenting on this case of unabashed internet censorship, RNW's Deputy Editor-in-Chief Ardi Bouwers says: 

"The Arabic desk often reports on human rights abuses and free speech restrictions. The shocking video and the articles about exploitation led to heated discussions on the website involving opponents and proponents of Saudi Arabia's way of dealing with Asian employees. Apparently, the Saudis feel threatened by our exposure of the beastly way in which domestic staff are treated, and as a result they blocked our sites."

The Saudi blocking of RNW websites has far-reaching consequences for the free flow of information to Saudi Arabia. It's rare for such a government measure to be rescinded.

The Arab world is closely monitoring Radio Netherlands Worldwide. A recent interview with Syrian human rights activist Haitham Maleh, who has been awarded a major Dutch human rights medal  
(Geuzenpenning), led to many reactions from the Arab world, including many from Syria's secret service. Their reactions were conspicuous because of the remarkable level of praise for President Assad's regime, expressed in identical words and phrases across the messages.

"However balanced our reporting may be, apparently it occasionally touches a raw nerve with the Saudi authorities," commented Ardi Bouwers.





Greedo 15 August 2011 - 5:14am / Netherland

why block the website when the Saudis can just boycott imports from Netherlands

David Berridge 14 August 2011 - 9:32pm / Canada

Hiram, You fail to appreciate Geert as the Grandmaster of human political chess here. Yes, gorvernments have interests and RNW is no execption. By joining in the support of RNW, Geert is supporting the new status he helped give it as a broadcaster to those who need to hear about freedom of speech. He is thus justifying the status he has helped take away from it as a broadcaster who propogates domestic and international criticism about himself while condeming a regime he is against. Geert is in sense a master manipulator of domestic and foreign affairs opinion, even of his own supporters. The man {love him or hate him} is a pure genius and therefore dangerous.

David Berridge 14 August 2011 - 7:49am / Canada

Relax,Hiram, this is meant as a joke! You've hit a sensitive spot over this article, even to the point of agreement with the Saudis over it, which I admit sounds like a Faustian bargain in the process. You do however, give me too much credit in your defense of Geert, who can do and say what he pleases no matter how I criticize him. In today's Dutch stories the PVV has joined criticism agianst the Saudi censorship of RNW, putting you in direct disagreement with Geert.

Hiram1 14 August 2011 - 5:16pm

David, I like Geert and his stance on mass immigration but that does not mean I support all of his social issues.

David Berridge 13 August 2011 - 8:18am / Canada

"Saudi Arabia is right". Wow! Hiram this is extrodinary! Maybe you're becoming too much of a curmudgeon for your good!

Hiram1 13 August 2011 - 10:53am

"Maybe you're becoming too much of a curmudgeon for your good!"...Well, David, I see you have no empathy for the victims, again. I see the chief curmudgeon of Canada has come-out to give his "hail to the chief" speech to all the minion curmudgeons in his command. I wondered how long it would take for the chief to come-out and give his state of the union speech on RNW's balanced, news reporting. I want you to know that I learned my curmudgeonly tactics from your vicious attacks on Geert. David, you used the word "maybe". It makes you sound asn though you are not sure of yourself. You have always expressed yourself in a self-confident manner during your attacks against Geert. Your lack of self-confidence is starting to show.

Anonymous 13 August 2011 - 3:06am / saudi arabia

it is not that big deal most of the Saudis use proxy server programs to accede these pages
I am one of theme

jaap akkerhuis 12 August 2011 - 11:11pm / Netherlands

Did RNW contact the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) and about this and what was the reaction?
I really would like to know.

Anonymous 13 August 2011 - 4:49am

me too, jaap

Hiram1 12 August 2011 - 4:38pm

"However balanced our reporting may be, apparently it occasionally touches a raw nerve with the Saudi authorities," commented Ardi Bouwers.".....RNW's reporting is balanced? How did you come your to conclusion? Your news reporters don't gather the facts and present them to the readers to digest and form an informed opinion. Your reporters write their articles with beams in their eyes. They know nothing about gathering facts. They let their biases influence and make the news. They instigate problems and they then write "opinions" to show how they have been mistreated. No, there are reporters within RNW that do not know how to write a balanced article. What is their agenda? Saudi Arabi is right. Why? You wrote an article on an ambassador's "alleged" conduct and you didn't investigate and report the facts. You accused a person of a crime and found him guilty without proof. Gather the facts and then write the report.

Alfonso M 13 August 2011 - 1:26am

Then, why do you keep reading RNW? you could make better use of your time if RNW is not to your liking... or is it that you're just a perennial virtual curmudgeon always commenting in order to be heard (in this case read) because you spend way too much time sitting in front of the PC?

unspoken 13 August 2011 - 11:03am

Looks like you touched a nerve Alfonso M. Why exactly does Hiram read the RNW if he finds it so objectionable. There are other dutch/english papers.

Hiram1 13 August 2011 - 6:06am

Questions Alfonso M: Are you not doing likewise with your opinion? Did you not sit in front of your PC and type your opinion in order to be heard? It appears you and I are alike. We both are perennial virtual curmudgeons. I liked your word "curmudgeon". You impress me.

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