Saturday, May 02, 2009

saudi women journalists may sue online site for libel

From the front page of today's Saudi Gazette:

Women journalists slap website with libel charge
By Soad Al-Salim RIYADH

Four official bodies have begun looking into a possible libel case to be brought by a group of women journalists in Riyadh against a Saudi online news site for publishing a report accusing them of holding immoral gatherings with leading newspaper figures.

The ministries of Interior and Culture and Information, along with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Saudi Journalists’ Commission, are looking into a joint complaint from 13 women working in the Saudi media which claims that they have been the victims of libel. Journalist Sharifah Al-Saeed said the case against the website was part of efforts to “preserve the integrity of the media.”

“We decided to lodge the complaint with the four different bodies as we know the stories are false and have been fabricated by the on-line newspaper,” Al-Saeed said. “We completely reject the idea of using women working in the media to harm our country’s reputation. There are 13 of us, all journalists from several printed newspapers and television companies.”Legal experts specialized in the media say that the people who run websites can be made responsible for libel, and that the idea that opinions posted on sites do not reflect the view of the site is not admissible. They add that those who are affected have the right to a judicial hearing and compensation, even if the case goes back a long time and the libelous material has been accessible online for a lengthy period.

Officials at the Journalists’ Commission said the issue would be raised at a meeting with the Minister of Culture and Information, Abdul Aziz Khoja. The HRC said it would ask the minister to take the on-line news site to court and seek an apology to be published on the same site. – Okaz/SG

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