The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia on Friday issued a religious edict prohibiting contact with foreign media, in order to protect the Kingdom's security and religion.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh decreed that contacting foreign media outlets was "not permissible and is considered betrayal and assistance to the enemies of Islam" and amounted to “treason and major crime" Al Arabiya reported.
The Grand Mufti went on to say that foreign media seeks to “spread chaos and strife in Muslim lands" and contact with them is a threat to Saudi security and religion.
As the highest religious authority in the Kingdom, the Grand Mufti's words carry great weight in a country already deemed one of the most censored in the world. Following the wake of pro-democracy protests across North Africa and the Middle East, censorship in Saudi Arabia was tightened. According to CPJ "No foreign or local journalists are granted access to the Eastern Province, where protesters have been calling for political reforms and greater rights for the Shiite minority since February 2011." Additionally "international news outlets operating inside its borders limit their reporting in order to maintain accreditation."
As censorship was tightened HRW reported "The Ministry of Culture and Information heavily censored print and broadcast media. Internet critics crossing vague 'red lines' faced arrest." Amongst the new laws was one which prohibited anything which could damage the reputation of the Grand Mufti.
Over the course of the year Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has issued a number of restrictive edicts in the name of Islam. In March Israel National News reported he declared it was “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region." In September Digital Journal reported the Grand Mufti "called upon governments and international bodies to criminalize insults against prophets."