Two weeks ago we talked about the Saudi man who was facing jail after disclosing his sexual habits on television. He has since been detained and, if found guilty, could be jailed for 20 years or stoned to death. Meanwhile, the Lebanese channel which aired the programme has been banned from the kingdom indefinitely.
The Jeddah offices of the Lebanese Broadcasting Company (LBC) - a channel largely funded by Saudi billionaire Walid Ben Talal - closed on Saturday by order of Saudi interior minister Prince Nayef Ben Abdul Aziz. The Riyadh offices however, which are considered less important, remain open.
It was the previous Saturday that the guest of Lebanese show "The Red Line", Mazen Abdul Jawad, was arrested by the police and detained. His colourful description of his sex life, aired July 15, caused an outcry in Saudi Arabia, where the media and Internet were flooded with indignant comments over the affair.
“Saudi Arabia fosters chauvinistic Saudi nationalism”
Asaad AbuKhalil is a political science professor at California State University. He published this comment on his blog.
There are so many layers to the story. The Jerry Springer of LBC, Malik Maktabi, is probably the only Shi`ite who works for LBC-TV. Secondly, LBC-TV is partly owned by Al-Walid and there has been a growing campaign against Al-Walid, even by his religiously fanatic brother.
Thirdly, Saudi Arabia has been fostering chauvinistic Saudi nationalism and, like all Arab regimes, conflates attacks on the royal family with attacks on the people of Saudi Arabia, and they treat scandals involving one Saudi as part of a campaign against the Saudi government.
Fourthly, Lebanese media, while they offer fawning praise and prostration to the Saudi royal family, are guilty of racism against Gulf Arabs. Fifthly, it is not uncommon for the Saudi government to persecute Saudi media. Al-Hayat (pan-Arab newspaper) has been banned in Saudi Arabia a few times although it is owned by Prince Khalid Bin Sultan."
“Saudis are rejoicing over the closing of the Jeddah offices”
Along with a group of other journalists, Qubul Alhajri, from Riyadh, launched the campaign "Never Compromise Your Homeland" which fights negative representations of Saudi Arabia abroad.
Like all societies we have good and bad points; we also have many hidden talents but people rarely speak of them. LBC liked to favour sensational stuff without properly treating the real problems highlighted. It presented certain individuals' behaviours like a social phenomena. The channel's actions were unacceptable.
It was because of this sex revelation affair that we, six journalists under the age of 30, decided to rectify the image of our country and to follow and note all that is broadcast about Saudi Arabia. We prize professionalism, objectivity and freedom of opinion, and we're not afraid of constructive criticism. But we also want the broadcasting charter of 2008 to be respected. LBC gleefully breached that charter and disregarded important characteristics of the Arab identity.
In airing The Red Line, LBC showed numerous accounts of Saudis talking about taboo subjects such as temporary marriage, homosexuality, divorce etc. The show dealt with Saudi advertisers by promising them high audience numbers. It passed all the red lines. And for that reason, Saudis are rejoicing over the closing of the Jeddah offices. We would have liked shareholder Walid Ben Talal to have taken the decision himself. We blame him for not doing so."