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Israeli journalist sneaks into Saudi Arabia to film report on MbS 'reforms'

An Israeli journalist filed a news report from the Saudi city of Jeddah [Twitter/i24 News]

Date of publication: 16 January, 2020

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Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman filed a special news report for Israeli channel i24 News from the Saudi city of Jeddah on Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman's 'reforms'.
An Israeli journalist delivered a news report from the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia after travelling to the ultra-conservative kingdom on a passport from another country.

Journalist Henrique Cymerman filed a special report for Israeli news channel i24 News, Israel's foreign ministry tweeted in Arabic, saying this was the first report of its kind since Saudi Arabia opened its doors to tourists.

"The journalist has a foreign passport," the ministry clarified on its IsraelArabic account. 

"We are in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, 66 kilometres from Mecca, the holy city of Islam. It's an important place, but it's an important moment," Cymerman said in his report.

"Now, after the decision of the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to approve visas... for tourists from fifty different nations in the world, we are seeing they are trying to diversify the economy here."

Cymerman hailed Saudi Arabia's recent reforms for women.  

"We can see it everywhere. They not only drive, they are opening businesses, they can open a bank account, they can travel alone abroad or have a passport," he said.

"Mohamed bin Salman is supported by seventy percent of the population under thirty, youngsters who really want to see a change." 

"A dramatic moment in Saudi Arabia," Cymerman said to sign off his report.

As part of the social and economic changes, spearheaded by de facto ruler Prince Mohammed, the oil-rich kingdom is working to grow its tourism sector and move away from a reliance on oil and gas.

The kingdom has opened itself to sporting, cultural and entertainment events.

It also announced in September that it would offer tourist visas for the first time, relaxing rules that had largely restricted visits to business travellers and Muslim pilgrims.

Israel is not on the list of 49 countries from which citizens are eligible to apply for a Saudi tourist visa. 

Saudi Arabia has recently eased restrictions on women - including allowing them to drive and receive passports and travel abroad without permission from male relatives.

But Riyadh has also faced intense diplomatic fallout over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed and dismembered in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Read more: Dakar Rally opens dark new chapter in Saudi sportswashing

Saudi Arabia has also been criticised for mounting a crackdown on dissidents, including influential preachers and intellectuals.

In 2018, authorities arrested at least a dozen women activists, most of whom were detained in a wide-ranging crackdown just before the historic lifting of the decades-old ban on female motorists.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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