Riyadh: In what is seen as a move to protect senior figures in religious establishment and other senior public officials amid growing media and internet criticism, the Saudi monarch King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz on Friday issued amendments to the Saudi Press and Publications Law.
The royal decree amended five articles in the Law which was issued in 2000.
One of the amendments stipulates that responsible persons in the publishing field shall be bound by objective and constructive criticism based on facts and that this criticism should be for the public interest.
The amendments make it a crime to publish any material that damages the reputation or cause insult to the kingdom's grand mufti, members of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars and government officials.
Moreover, the amendments stipulate that those in charge of publishing should not publish any materials violating Sharia, inciting division between citizens, promoting crimes or damaging the homeland's public affairs.
According to the royal decree, whoever is found guilty can be fined up to 500,000 Saudi riyals (Dh490,000) or 1 million riyals for repeat offenders and/or a ban on their works being published or appearing in the press.
It added that establishments found guilty of violating this law will be asked to shut down temporarily or permanently. Moreover, if the violation is not deemed serious enough for closure, the establishment which publishes false information or accusations will be asked by law to publish retractions and apologies.
A special court will look at violations that are deemed to be an affront to Islam, the amendments said.