New York, July 30, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the Saudi Arabian Information Ministry’s decision to ban Saudi writer Hussein Shobokshi from writing his weekly newspaper column.
According to a July 29 Reuters report, Shobokshi received a call from his editors at Okaz, the Saudi daily that published his weekly columns. “I got notification from Okaz the other day. It said that they were told by the Ministry of Information that I could no longer write in the paper,” Shobokshi told Reuters.
The editors did not specify which column caused the authorities to ban him from writing, but Shobokshi told Reuters that he suspects that it was his column published in Okaz on July 1. In that editorial, Shobokshi described his vision of Saudi Arabia, touching on such sensitive topics as the rights of women to drive and citizens to vote in elections.
Shobokshi said that the column had garnered a great deal of positive and negative response, including death threats, reported The Associated Press on July 15.
It is not unprecedented for he Saudi government to ban writers who publish critical articles. For instance, in May, the government removed the daily Al Watan editor Jamal Khashoggi from his post in response to the paper’s provocative editorial stance against Islamic militancy in Saudi Arabia in the wake of the May 12 suicide bombings in Riyadh, which killed more than two-dozen people.
Calls seeking comment from the information office at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, D.C., were not returned.