by Emily Lowe
Saudi Arabian Professor of Social Anthropology Madawi Al-Rasheed has taken the stage at the Integrity 20 conference in Brisbane with her keynote “The Saudi Lie” about the corrupt Saudi government and how this affects journalism.
The first day of Integrity 20 was heavily focused on the plight of journalism in the modern world, with many stories about how journalism and journalists are now under threat.
Ms Al-Rasheed also turned her focus to the corruption of journalism in Saudi Arabia.
“What is really amazing is that since 2015, for three years we have heard lies not only by the government, but also by journalists, who should be respected journalists working in global media,” Ms Al-Rasheed said.
“Western journalists are actually corrupted by the Saudi regime to provide us with a narrative that washes all these kind of lies and crimes that take place in Saudi Arabia.”
Ms Al-Rasheed said the problem is reporters have very limited access to Saudi Arabia, and when traveling they must go through the government to the Ministry of Information, and can only interview specific individuals who have been cleared by the regime.
“They are not allowed to simply go into shopping centres and grab a Saudi and have a conversation with them, and if they do, most Saudis would refuse to talk to them,” she said.
“If you are not authorised to talk to foreign journalists you can be imprisoned, and if you do there is a heavy price to pay.”
The Saudi government is an absolute monarchy, ruled by one man – Salman of Saudi Arabia.
Because of his complete control, he can control the media, and suppress information, with harsh consequences when information he has not approved is published.
“It is very easy to provoke the Saudi regime, a 140 word tweet might find you in prison, if you write a blog that is critical of the government you will be detained,” she said.
“The reform we are talking about is a lie if we believe it is coming from the top down.”
She revealed the truth about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, saying while they have recently been given the right to move freely and to drive, there are other legal actions which are particularly concerning.
“If women are abused, sexually or physically, they report it to the police, they are kept at the police station, and they are not released until their guardian takes them,” she said.
” Imagine if the guardian is the abuser.
“There are many lies about this reform but the repression has actually become extremely obvious and people are paying a high price.”
Ms Al-Rasheed says western countries should withdraw their support for Saudi Arabia, for the sake of the safety and security of the international community as a whole.
“For Australia and for the rest of the world, it is actually in the national interest of western countries to stop their unconditional support for a regime that not only terrorises its own people, but also causes regional instability,” she said.