By Ed Attwood
Gulf state accused of censorship after intervening to pull ad on oil exports, human rights
A Saudi move to prevent the airing of a television advertisement that speaks out against imported oil from the kingdom to Canada has caused a storm of protest in the North American country.
The ad, produced by Toronto-based ethicaloil.org, criticised the discrimination of women in Saudi Arabia and asked: “Why are we funding their bills and funding their oppression?”
It also claimed that: “We’ve bankrolled a state that doesn’t allow women to drive and that doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission.”
The ethicaloil.org website promotes the production of Canadian oil from the Alberta oil sands, despite a series of complaints from environmental activists that this process endangers local wildlife and contaminates the area.
Saudi officials sent a legal notice to broadcaster CTV, which removed an ad that was scheduled to run on its network.
“Our position should be that we are in receipt of notice of a legal dispute with respect to this spot and that, accordingly, we will not broadcast the spot until the legal dispute is resolved,” said an email from CTV forwarded to local Canadian media by ethicaloil.org founder Alykhan Velshi.
Velshi said that the Saudi move had created “a diplomatic incident”.
“Canada is a country that is a champion of freedom of speech. That is a constitutional right,” said Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney, according to Sun Media.
“And we don’t take kindly to foreign governments threatening directly or indirectly Canadian broadcasters or media for giving voice to freedom of speech.”
Another Canadian member of parliament challenged Saudi Arabia to a debate about human rights, amid a storm of protest in the country over censorship.
"What the Saudis ought to be doing, if they want to have a debate about the issue, then they should say, 'Ethical Oil is making these arguments. Here's where we disagree,' and actually have a valid public argument or discussion about the issue," said Edmonton MP James Rajotte, according to the Toronto Sun.
Canada shouldn't bow to this pressure and if the Saudis have an issue with this then they should respond with counter ads, or better still do some soul searching to reform their system.
This was so unnecessary now it fills newspapers, magazines,video, onternet, the water cooler topic of the day.They have the attention of the tea party in the USA. Independent Media is asking for the saudi ambassador to be called on the carpet.I thought we were all trying to let cooler heads prevail and then saudi brings lawyers into it, the world largest firm" Norton Ross".This is bad for business - with the uae trying to more landing slots, Bell Canada trying to work in saudi with state of the art telco using our orbiting satellites .This does not help bilateral relations one bit and everybody is a loser here.