Saudi Arabia blocks Amnesty International website

Amnesty International has criticized a proposed anti-terrorist law

Saudi Arabia appears to have blocked the website of human rights organization Amnesty International after it published an analysis that said a proposed anti-terrorist law in the kingdom could be directed against peaceful protests.

Amnesty, which has its international secretariat in London, said in a statement on Monday that its international website had been blocked in Saudi Arabia following the organization's criticism of the draft anti-terror law.

In a message on Twitter, it pointed people to an alternative link to a statement in Arabic on its U.K. site. "Although the Saudi authorities have blocked our main international site, they haven't yet blocked any Amnesty UK site, as far as we know," Amnesty said.

The development highlights the increased regulation of online activity and websites in the kingdom. It frequently blocks websites that are considered critical of the government, or are seen not to adhere to Islamic principles, but this is one of the few occasions when the government has targeted a high-profile organization.

Online censorship is ubiquitous in Saudi Arabia, said Reporters Without Borders in January. A new rule introduced at the beginning of the year further regulates news websites and other online activity, it said. The press freedom organization rates Saudi Arabia along with China, Cuba, and Iran, as one of ten "enemies of the Internet".

The embassy of Saudi Arabia in London said in a statement on Sunday that Amnesty's concerns about the law "are baseless, mere supposition on their part, and completely without foundation". It added that Amnesty had criticized the law without contacting the embassy for clarity or comment.

The statement did not, however, refer to the blocking of the Amnesty website in Saudi Arabia. Authorities in the country were not immediately available for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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