Last edited: April 03, 2004

Saudi Government Lifts Gay Web Ban, April 2, 2004

By Newscenter Staff

London—The government of Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on two gay news websites following the intervention of Reporters Without Borders, an international organization for freedom of the press. and were blocked for the second time in a year by the Internet Services Unit of the government as part of a crackdown on “immoral” websites. (story) GayMiddleEast is the region’s largest source of gay news and an affiliate of the world’s largest supplier of LGBT news and information.

The Internet Services Unit controls the gateway used by all Saudi Internet access providers. The agency can thus control all information exchanged on the Net.

“Officially filtering is only supposed to be applied to pornographic publications or those directly harming Islam,” said Reporters Without Borders in a letter to Eyas Al-Hajery, the head of the ISU.

“In fact, the Saudi Internet blacklist extends to other areas, from political sites to non-recognized Islamist sites via, of course, any publication relating in any way to sexuality,” the letter continued.

“We condemn this extension of censorship, which is in the process of reducing the country’s network to an Intranet, as in Burma or Cuba,” said the organization.

This week, Al-Hajery ordered to the two sites to be opened up to Saudis.

“After receiving your letter, we carried out a new examination of these sites. Since no pornographic content was found, the ban has been lifted” Al-Hajery wrote to Reporters Without Borders.

Homosexuality is forbidden in Saudi Arabia and is punishable by imprisonment or flogging. The internet ban remains on other sites including chat services which the kingdom deems to be obscene.

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