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Saudi warns of five-year jail sentence for spreading rumours, fake news

Saudi warns of five-year jail sentence for spreading rumours, fake news

The kingdom’s cybercrime laws are among the strictest in the world

Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution has warned citizens and residents that they face up to five years in jail and a SAR3m fine ($800,000) for spreading rumours or ‘fake news’ online.

Saturday’s statement comes amid controversy surrounding the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who Turkish officials allege was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Read: Saudi team in Turkey investigating Khashoggi disappearance

Saudi Arabia interior minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif, has described the accusations as “lies and baseless allegations”.

The kingdom is now conducting a joint investigation with Turkish authorities.

The kingdom’s cybercrime laws are among the toughest in the world and punish anyone deemed to have produced or distributed content that breaches public order or privacy.

The Public Prosecution said last month that this included satire and “content that ridicules, mocks, provokes and disrupts public order, religious values and public morals through social media”.

Read: Saudi prosecution warns of 5-year prison sentence for posting satire

Last August, a group of Twitter users were summoned by the prosecution after being accused of harming public order “by influencing the integrity and moderation of the intellectual curriculum of society”.

At the time, public prosecutor Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Muajab stressed that any individual who shared content deemed harmful to society “whatever its material, pretext and means of publication” would face prosecution.

This included media publications, social media, lectures, speeches, books and others, he added.

Acts considered harmful to public order include inciting “hatred, sectarianism and intellectual and sectarian classifications as well as attempts to mislead the public opinion”, the prosecution said.

Read: Saudi summons Twitter users for harming public order


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