WASHINGTON DC – Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif threatened Al-Watan newspaper Wednesday and hinted at replacing its editors.
“If media doesn’t see public and national interest first, they should leave the arena to someone else,” he told the Okaz Daily.
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Al-Watan reported last week on several policemen who were sent to Hajj with orders, but no food or shelter, and slept on the street. This story apparently angered the minister, who is in charge of security at Hajj and the country. He said if what was reported was true, it should not have been reported at this time.
In a clear response to the threat, Al-Watan Thursday wrote an extended article about the heroism of security forces at Hajj. The article appeared to be falsified because all those interviewed were anonymous.
Last year Al-Watan apologized to Prince Abdul Majeed of Makka and fired its reporter in the city after an article about the demolition of Makka historical neighborhoods. The prince denied the demolition plans, which took place later last year.
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The minister frequently imposes restrictions on writers and newspaper. Dozens of writers have been suspended and barred from travel. In September, the minister banned any reporting about women’s new identification cards, issued for the first time on initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah.
Naif said the security forces in Hajj exceeded 50,000; the highest ever due to September 11 repercussions.
In unrelated story, several people reported that religious police stopped a car driven by a Saudi woman in Riyadh Wednesday night. An unidentified member of the royal family, who showed up after the female driver called him from her mobile phone, beat up the policeman and released the woman.
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In the past few years many Saudi women have been driving cars at night, disguised as men or with tented windows. Most of them are members of the royal family and other prominent families. Although the country signed the United Nations Convention of Elimination of all Form of Discrimination Against Women, it stands alone in the world banning women from driving, and last in issuing women identification cards.