Thursday, January 11, 2018

The New Saudi Arabia Absolute Power in the Hands of a Crown Prince - Der Spiegel

An Essay by 
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has embarked on a path to reform his country. But to achieve his goals, he is quashing all forms of critique. That is the wrong way to go.
Two days prior to his arrest in early November, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal sent me a long text message reprimanding me for op-eds I'd written for the Washington Postand the Financial Times. In those pieces, I had dared to criticize Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for, well, making arrests!

Al-Waleed, a billionaire investor and hotel owner, is a nephew of the Saudi king and he was my boss when I was head of the Al-Arab news channel, which he funded. After three years of development, we launched from Manama, Bahrain in February 2015 - but we were only on air for 11 hours before the Bahraini government shut us down. Why? Likely because we gave just as much airtime to a Shiite activist and politician as we did to the Sunni government.

I had heard from Al-Waleed less frequently in the 12 months prior to his arrest, though that wasn't much of a surprise. I'd been banned from writing my column in the Saudi Arabian daily Al-Watan and, more recently, blacklisted by the pan-Arab paper Al-Hayat, which is likewise under Saudi ownership. I had also been told to stay off Twitter after I was repeatedly critical of the government's decision to embrace U.S. President Donald Trump.

I've been repeatedly asked: "Who was it who told you?" The answer is government officials and their allies. And their message is clear, one well known to those of us who have crossed the line before: You either cease and desist or risk the consequences. First you are unable to travel. Then comes house arrest. And then perhaps even jail.

From the decades I have spent crossing that line, I know from experience that there is now no distance between the official government position and what we as citizens are allowed to say. We had far greater latitude in the past - not quite free speech, but also not a demand for total, blind obedience. And often, it wasn't the leadership that had a problem with what we wrote or said, but the Ulama, the religious leadership, which is far more sensitive. - Read More

The New Saudi ArabiaAbsolute Power in the Hands of a Crown Prince


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