Close U.S. ally Saudi Arabia blocked Amnesty International’s website, according to a press release from the London-based human rights group. Last week, Amnesty published a leaked copy of a Saudi draft anti-terrorism law that they said “would allow the authorities to prosecute peaceful dissent as a terrorist crime.”
“Instead of attacking those raising concerns and attempting to block debate, the Saudi Arabian government should amend the draft law to ensure that it does not muzzle dissent and deny basic rights,” said Amnesty Middle East and North Africa director Stuart Malcolm in today’s release.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made Internet freedom a major plank in her foreign policy approach and has delivered two lengthy addresses on the issue. During the height of the Arab Spring, the U.S. heavily criticized countries that curtailed Internet use in order to prevent protesters from organizing online using social media sites. Indeed, just last week, a senior advisor to Clinton told Radio Free Europe that the U.S. will speak out against any country — including U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia — that prohibits internet freedom:
RFE/RL: The United States has been pushing for Internet freedom around the world. Do these efforts include U.S. allies; namely Saudi Arabia, which is considered an enemy of the Internet by rights groups.
ALEC ROSS: There are 195 countries on Planet Earth. The focus of the State Department is on 194 of them. Our Internet-freedom agenda is focused on 194 countries.
RFE/RL: So it applies to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain? Does the U.S. raise these issues with the leaders of those countries? […]
ALEC ROSS: [Y]es, whenever any country significantly breaches what we believe to be longstanding universal rights, the United States speaks up.
Earlier this year, after pressure from activists and rights groups such as Amnesty, Clinton, a longtime advocate for women’s rights, praised the “brave” Saudi women who defied a ban on driving in a civil disobedience protest action.
So if the State Department’s “Internet freedom agenda” incudes Saudi Arabia, will the U.S. “speak up?”