Saudi Arabia issues 10,000 Riyal fine for watching al-Jazeera
Saudi Arabia issued an outright ban against watching the al-Jazeera TV channel on Thursday, in the latest bizarre twist in its on-going diplomatic spat with Qatar.
The Saudi commission for tourism and national heritage issued a warning of a 10,000 riyal ($2700) fine if any tourist outlet failed to censor the Qatari news channel.
"The commission affirms the necessity to cancel a number of al-Jazeera media channels inside tourism accommodation," the unsigned letter reads.
The letter references law 1214, dated 13 January 2011, related to television transmissions.
Saudi Arabia is currently engaged in a diplomatic row with Qatar over its financial support for media networks that publish truth to power.
Many analysts believe the incident and the campaign that followed were planned in advance, to justify the current blockade on Qatar and force a major policy change from the more independently minded Doha.
Riyadh has called on Qatar to stop its support for Iran and Muslim Brotherhood, but several news pundits have pointed towards its real objective - to close down news organisations that are critical of the Saudi royal family.
|The communique from the Saudi tourism commission|
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, the engineers of the blockade, have spared no means in the current diplomatic and media war on Qatar: expulsion of diplomats and ordinary citizens, the blocking of airspace, severing of marine and land routes, and even a banking and postal embargo.
In the media sphere, Saudi Arabia and the UAE reportedly instructed outlets they fund to ignore all facts and denials from Qatar and crank up the pro-government propaganda machine. Together with Egypt, they have blocked several Qatari-supported and independent television channels and websites. The UAE and Bahrain have even criminalised expression of sympathy with Qatar.
The measures by the Saudi-Emirati camp against Qatar are proving unpopular within a large segment of the Gulf public opinion, who are wise to the fabricated outrage and have noticed the convergence between Saudi Arabia and Israel in bashing Qatar.
Hashtags in solidarity with Qatar have been trending this week, all the way from Mauritania and Turkey (Qatar Is Not Alone), to Saudi Arabia (Statements of Al Jubair Do Not Represent Me) and the rest of the Gulf.
A Twitter robot army, linked previously to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, has been deployed to quickly contain and steer such narratives on Twitter.