Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- In a stormy session [hosted by the Committee for Cultural and Media Affairs] in which the Ministry of Culture and Information received sharp criticism, members of the Saudi Arabian Shura Council on Sunday called for raising the ceiling on “media freedoms” in a manner that is commensurate with Riyadh’s regional and international standing.
This is not the first time that Riyadh has faced calls for granting greater media freedom, and this comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is experiencing unprecedented social mobility, supported by well known social networking websites, which are now being used to express public opinion in a more open manner than the official media.
In its Sunday session, the Committee for Cultural and Media Affairs disclosed that two reports put forward by the Ministry of Culture and Information “did not mention the budgets allocated to each of its sectors, or the cost of the numerous activities it is undertaking either inside or outside the kingdom”, stressing that any reports in the future should include the cost of activities, and the program budgets. Some Shura Council members demanded that the Ministry of Information should “provide more freedom to the Saudi media, in line with Saudi Arabia’s regional and international status, and in a manner that serves its political, economic and social objectives.” Among the demands put forward by the Shura Council members on Sunday was the establishment of a national regulatory body for journalists, as well as the formulation of a cultural policy for Saudi Arabia, and a body to supervise this.
The Shura Council’s opposition towards the two reports being put forward by the Ministry of Culture and Information focused on the Ministry’s media and cultural role. The members demanded that the ministry should exert more effort towards promoting media performance, in a manner that serves the country’s trend towards comprehensive development. Media services offered by all television and radio stations should be promoted, according to a statement issued by the Shura Council.
The Shura Council also endorsed amendments to articles of a draft mortgage financing system, and a draft resolution to monitor mortgage financing companies. The Council supported the new amendments along with Article III, which it had approved previously. A statement issued by the Shura Council said that the only disparity in viewpoints between the Council of Ministers and the Shura Council “lies in the wording of some articles, where some text either needs to be omitted or added, or where some phrases of headings need to be linguistically amended.” The Shura Council emphasized that the financing systems must be highly disciplined, so as to serve the interests of the real-estate sector in Saudi Arabia, and in a manner that contributes to the development and the promotion of such a vital area. In the upcoming session, the Financial Subcommittee will provide further remarks on the disparate viewpoints between members of the Shura Council and the Council of Ministers, regarding the remaining mortgage financing projects.
The creation of this mortgage assistance system will meet people’s need for housing, and alleviate the crisis of soaring house prices. Such laws would ensure that citizens had access to proper housing, as pledged in the Royal Decree issued by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. This decree proposed to make 500,000 new housing units available throughout Saudi Arabia, at a total cost of 250 billion Saudi Riyals, as well as establishing a Ministry of Housing to undertake the implementation and supervision of the state’s policies in this area.