Because free speech is “un-Islamic”…

(Fast Company)– Saudi Arabia has enacted stringent new regulations forcing some bloggers to obtain government licenses and to strongarm others into registering. In addition, all Saudi news blogs and electronic news sites will now be strictly licensed, required to “include the call to the religion of Islam” and to strictly abide by Islamic sharia law. The registration and religion requirements are also being coupled with strict restrictions on what topics Saudi bloggers can write on–a development which will essentially give Saudi authorities the right to shut down blogs at their discretion.

The new regulations went into effect on January 1, 2011. Fast Company previously reported on the law’s announcement this past autumn, but the actual reforms enacted were far more punitive than we were earlier led to believe. The exact specifics of the new regulations were not previously announced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

What the new regulations center around is a legal redefinition of almost all online content created in Saudi Arabia. Blogs are now legally classified as “electronic publishing” and news blogs (the term is not explicitly defined in the Saudi law) are now subject to the same legal regulations as newspapers. All Saudi Arabia-based news blogs, internet news sites, “internet sites containing video and audio materials” and Saudi Area-created mobile phone/smartphone content will fall under the newspaper rubric as well.

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