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Elaph Editor: Saudi Conservatives Block Critical Online News

Online news, like Saudi women,
is shrouded in shadow

The managing editor of Elaph says Saudi Arabia  is blocking one of the Arab world's most popular online news outlets, bowing to pressure from religious conservatives, according to The Globe and Mail.

Elaph has become a major source for political and entertainment news since its 2001 launch, hovering at about 1.5 million hits per day, according to Sultan al-Qahtani, Managing Editor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The site employs 90 journalists worldwide.

The news destination has been blocked since May 2006. In retaliation, its owner registered Elaph in Britain.

“We didn't have any official reason — some people said it was security, some said political, or religious. But I think it was religious,” said Qahtani.

“I think it's the political and domestic news, articles, commentaries and reportage concerning religious figures and efforts to isolate Islamist extremism in Saudi Arabia.”

Elaph closed down its online forum after authorities blocked the site in 2002. The rejuvenated ban suggests an ongoing battle between religious conservatives and the liberal elite.

Saudi Arabia manages Internet relations via the Communications and Information Technology Commission, a telecom regulator. Shi'ite news outlets, liberal and Islamist discussion forums, and dissident webpages based abroad are also banned.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Elaph was blocked in Libya and Syria.


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