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Mon 5 Dec 2016 03:34 PM

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Saudi Arabia warns of penalties for social media 'rumourmongers'

Penalties for media outlets include up to 10 years in prison and fines of more than $1.3 million

Saudi Arabia warns of penalties for social media 'rumourmongers'

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information has warned media organisations face penalties for spreading rumours and false information.

Media outlets face stiffer penalties than individuals, with up to ten years in prison and fines of more than $1.3 million for publishing rumours or false information.

The warning follows publication of a story reporting that Prince Abdullah bin Musaed bin Abdul Aziz had been relieved as president of the  General Authority of Sports, according a report in local media. Well known media outlets in the kingdom had published the news online, and later apologised for the mistake.

Saudi lawyer Majed Garoub told Arab News: “Any media error committed through electronic means is considered a cybercrime and has huge consequences. Each crime is classified under a certain type of cybercrime and is punishable by law.

“I take this incident as an opportunity to send a message to media outlets that the same accuracy applied to print newspapers must be applied to their official websites and accounts on social networking sites,” he added.

Garoub warned that anyone who shares a rumour online are as guilty as its original source.

“Can you imagine the consequences if this was a rumour about a security operation or a terrorist act?” Garoub said.