Saudi Arabia: Books banned, performance interrupted at book fair

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information banned and confiscated books by Egyptian writer Youssef Zeidan from the Riyadh International Book Fair, held from 8 to 18 March 2017, reported Cairo Portal on 12 March 2017. The writer told Masr Alarabiya on 11 March 2017 that his books were available during the launch of the […]

Saudi Arabia: Music video and government initiatives split society

A music video entitled ‘Hwages’, which loosely translates to “concerns”, featuring a trio of veiled female artists with colourful clothing underneath, playing together and singing about the oppression women face in Saudi Arabia has not only gone viral, but has also divided the country, reported The Independent on 5 January 2017. The women, while they […]

Podcast: Spotlight on Saudi female artists

What’s it like to be a female artist in one of the world’s most conservative states? Today is Music Freedom Day, which makes a special focus on women performers and musicians and we therefore bring you this podcast by Big Hass, founder and radio host of Laish Hip Hop – Saudi’s First FM Hip Hop […]

Saudi Arabia: Ministry confiscates thousands of books from library cafe

A committee from the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information confiscated thousands of books on 4 November 2016 from the Al Rawi Café, located north of the Saudi capital Riyadh, due to most of them not having been officially approved by the ministry, reported Al Mayedeen on November 6. Ministry spokesman Hani al Ghafily defended […]

Saudi Arabia: Emir bans playing and carrying of musical instruments in region

Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal of the eastern region of Makkah banned the playing and carrying of musical instruments, headphones and speakers in public places within all governorates in the region on 16 June 2016, reported several local news sources, including the Saudi Gazette, Emirates 24/7 and Gulf Digital News, on 16 June 2016. The directive […]

Art Under Threat: Attacks on artistic freedom in 2015

Freemuse Annual Statistics on Censorship and Attacks on Artistic Freedom in 2015 Artistic freedom is under extreme pressure in far too many countries. The Freemuse annual report summarises censorship and threats on artistic freedom in 2015 in over 70 countries. In total, Freemuse registered 469 cases of censorship and attacks on artists and violations of […]

Saudi Arabia: Poet’s death sentence changed to imprisonment and lashing

According to PEN International, a Saudi Arabian court changed the sentencing for Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh from a death sentence to an eight-year prison term and 800 lashes on 2 February 2016. In November 2015, Fayadh was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam; however, after his lawyer argued that the poet was denied a fair […]

Saudi Arabia: Festival stopped due to “swaying and dancing”

Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) in the Mayahel province stopped artist’s from performing music at a festival on two consecutive nights due to their dance movements on stage that were seen as improper for the audience, reported online newspaper on 11 January 2016. The head […]

Saudi Arabia: Growing clamp down on freedom of expression

The following is a news release from the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commisioner: UN rights expert raises alarm over Saudi Arabia’s growing clamp down on freedom of expression GENEVA (16 December 2015) – United Nations human rights expert David Kaye today expressed grave concern at the growing repression of freedom of […]

Saudi Arabia: Poet sentenced to death

According to PEN International, Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death on 17 November 2015 by a Saudi Arabian court for renouncing Islam. Fayadh, 35, told The Guardian: “I was really shocked but it was expected, though I didn’t do anything that deserves death.” In August 2013, Fayadh was detained and released on bail […]

Saudi Arabia: Comedian receives death threats over tv satire

The news that Saudi actor Nasser Al Qasabi (also spelled: Naser Al Gasabi) had received death threats after he made fun of the Islamic State fighters, ISIS, in one episode of his comedy series titled ‘Selfie’ went around the planet in June 2015. “Saudi comedian Nasser Al Qasabi has implemented the weapon of humor to […]

Saudi Arabia: Concert with mixed gender audience cancelled

A concert scheduled for 6 May 2015 at the major Jeddah Amasy concert hall was cancelled by authorities, according to the daily Saudi newspaper Ajel. Apparently the concert audience was planned to be of ‘mixed gender’, which incited an opposition campaign against the concert on social media. The event was to feature the popular young […]

Saudi Arabia: ‘Art is Halal’ poster campaign sparks lively debate

In Saudi Arabia, social media users have engaged in rare criticism of rulers over their arts policy in light of campaign by three female artists. The aim of the campaign, the artists say, is to provoke a public debate about the limits of freedom of expression in art. A trio of three young students and […]

Saudi Arabia: Hosts film festival despite cinema ban

Saudi Arabia is rolling out the red carpet on Friday for its second film festival in seven years, but the deeply conservative country has one major problem – cinemas are banned. More than 60 short films will compete for the Golden Palm Tree trophies crowning best drama, documentary and student film categories at a gala […]

Saudi Arabia: Edicts on music wade into controversy

A fatwa by a Saudi scholar banning participation in prayers led by an imam who held the view that music was not forbidden in Islam has waded into controversy. Shaikh Adel Al Kalbani last week said that music was tolerated in Islam and that people could listen to songs. However, his view was promptly resisted […]

Saudi Arabia: Artists cautiously test censorship limits

Saudi artists are learning to voice their frustration about the country’s most sensitive issues without coming into friction with the country’s rulers, reported Associated Press on 3 April 2014. However, the Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem – the highest-paid living Arab artist in the world – sends his works abroad because it is banned in the […]

Saudi Arabia: Ban of popular Islamic cartoon

Saudi Arabia has officially banned the internationally popular cartoon featuring Islamic heroes, The 99. The comic book series based on characters that each personify one of the 99 qualities that the Koran attributes to God has for years been successful, particularly in the Gulf, and has received the backing of Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasar […]

Saudi Arabia: 420 books banned at Riyadh International Book Fair

Saudi authorities have banned 420 books, including works by renowned Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish, as part of a crackdown on publications deemed threatening to the conservative kingdom. The local Okaz daily reported Sunday that organisers at the Riyadh International Book Fair had confiscated “more than 10,000 copies of 420 books” during the exhibition. A few […]

Artist Alert: December 2013 and January 2014 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 12 February 2014: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

Saudi Arabia: Palestinian poet jailed for ‘atheism and long hair’

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh is in a Saudi prison, allegedly for spreading atheism – and having long hair, Mona Kareem reported for Global Voices. Fayadh’s case is making the rounds in media and on social networks, with condemnations coming from Arab writers and artists from across the region. Some of his friends wrote online that […]

Saudi Arabia: Popular sci-fi novel banned

A top selling Saudi Arabian science fiction novel has been removed from book shops across the country. On 26 November 2013 representatives from the country’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — the Haya’a — raided several bookshops selling the novel ‘H W J N’ by Ibraheem Abbas and Yasser Bahjatt’s, […]

Artist Alert: October 2013 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published on on 14 November 2013: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

Artist Alert: June 2013 | Article 19

Newsletter from Article 19, published at on 17 July 2013: Art, in any form, constitutes a key medium through which information and ideas are imparted and received. Artist Alert, launched by ARTICLE 19 in 2008, highlights cases of artists around the world whose right to freedom of expression has been curtailed and abused, and […]

Saudia Arabia: Women banned from entering music shops

Saudi Arabia has banned women from entering shops selling musical instruments amid continued violation of women’s rights in the Arab kingdom, reported Al-Hayat, Press TV and Tehran Times on 3 July 2013 Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice allegedly has ordered a number of music shops across the […]

Saudi Arabia: Movie theatres are still banned, but the film business is moving on

Although Saudi Arabia has 27 million inhabitants, there is not a single movie theatre in the kingdom. Movie theatres were banned in the 1980’s in order to appease conservative clerics. The following is an introduction to the film business in the country today. First “all-Saudi” film Haifaa Al Mansour has directed one of the first […]

Saudi Arabia: Poet feared to be at risk of torture in detention

Habib Ali al-Maatiq is a published poet, journalist and photographer who supervised the news website Al-Fajr Cultural Network, known for its critical coverage of political unrest in the country’s heavily restricted Eastern Province. He was arrested by security forces on 22 February 2012 at his workplace in the city of Jubail, eastern Saudi Arabia, for […]

Saudi writers publish abroad to escape censorship

In a recent report published by the Saudi News network Al Arabiya News, many Saudi writers admitted that they resort to smuggling their manuscripts to be published abroad to escape censorship. According to the statistics included in the report, Beirut receives the larger share of Saudi books published abroad, followed by Cairo; Damascus comes third. […]



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