Friday, January 4, 2008

Saudi Culture and Information Minister: Saudi Media Enjoy Full Freedom

"[Saudi] Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani has highlighted the press freedom in Saudi Arabia and said his ministry had put no restrictions on foreign journalists and media persons who came for Haj coverage. 'We did not tell any foreign news agency or television station what they should cover and what they should not ... and with whom they should speak and with whom they should not ... the field was open to them and all facilities have been provided so they could do their work in an objective manner,' the minister said.

'This is one of the features of media work in Saudi Arabia and we at the Ministry of Culture and Information will not dictate that the Saudi media or a newspaper must say what we want it to say and we also will not exert influence on the foreign media to say what we want it to say,' he added. [...]

"The King emphasized the need for tolerance and promoting dialogue with people of other faiths. 'We, the media persons, should carry the king’s message in order to give it wider publicity,' he added. [...]

Source: Arab News (Saudi Arabia), December 24, 2007

Saudi daily: "How Free Is the Blogosphere?"

"When we congratulate ourselves on the expanding role of the media in Saudi Arabia, we do this with a sense of the different atmosphere surrounding us; there are still social problems, which we journalists cannot write about and there are still attitudes, which are anything but tolerant. [...]

"The news of the arrest in Jeddah on Dec. 10 of Saudi blogger Fouad Farhan will be seen by many as a setback at a time when international news agencies had begun quoting our newspapers on some of our most important and sensitive issues.

"One would think that the blogosphere should be even more open and free than newspapers.

"And generally it has been: Bloggers in Saudi Arabia have varied their goals and subjects from fun-oriented ones to social networks to comments on current affairs.

"For Saudis it was a breath of fresh air; the blogosphere offered freedom and an unrestricted space for all voices. Some of the bloggers have continued while others, for various reasons, stopped. The blogs dealing with lighter subjects, such as entertainment and fashion, survived while the more daring ones, which comment on current affairs, dance close to the red lines. [...]

"Whether you agree with them is completely up to each person for after all that is the beauty of the blogosphere — live and let live, express and let express.

"This sense of freedom is now at risk. According to some Saudi bloggers, Farhan’s arrest is making them think twice before posting comments that they might get in trouble for. [...]

"The arrest of Farhan, however, seems to many people to be a much more drastic step. According to the authorities, Farhan’s arrest was for 'non-security related issues' which implies that his website might not be the cause of the arrest — and indeed, this is supported by the fact that the site is up and running. [...]

"At a time when the world media is focusing on Saudi affairs — whether we like it or not — a little openness could help our image a great deal. We must learn from the Qatif Girl case.

"Because the authorities refused to talk, others did the talking; all sorts of theories came to the surface and there was no way of challenging or refuting them as there was no clear official information.

"Maybe this time a clear statement as to why Farhan is being detained on a very imprecise charge would go a long way to clearing things up. In this age when news is available to everyone around the clock, it is hard to be convinced by a vague statement."

Source: Arab News (Saudi Arabia), January 3, 2008

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Abu Dhabi to translate 100 books into Arabic

"As part of efforts to transform Abu Dhabi into the cultural lodestone of the Middle East and expand libraries there, the emirate's Authority for Culture and Heritage has chosen the first 100 books to be translated into Arabic under a new program.

"Among them are Alan Greenspan's memoir, "The Age of Turbulence," John Maynard Keynes's "General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money," and Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom." The goal is to translate 100 titles every year.

"The authority, known as Adach, has formed a nonprofit organization called Kalima, which is Arabic for 'word,' to undertake the translations [...]

"The effort is part of the emirate's lavish spending on culture, which includes $27 billion for building five museums, including a Guggenheim outpost designed by Frank Gehry and a Louvre satellite designed by Jean Nouvel.

"The first 100 titles draw from history, science and fiction; Kalima is still securing the rights to most of them. More than half were originally written in English, and they include a Pulitzer Prize winner, 'The Looming Tower' by Lawrence Wright, which examines the origins of Al Qaeda, as well as the best-seller, 'The Kite Runner,' by Khaled Hosseini. Classics in the first group of books to be translated include Milton's 'Paradise Regained.' A number of works by Jewish writers are on the list, including 'Collected Stories' by the Nobel Prize recipient Isaac Bashevis Singer. [...]"

Source: Internation Herald Tribune, January 2, 2008