US Media Muzzled on Obama Trip in Saudi Arabia


obama-saudiEven before President Obama sets off for Saudi Arabia, a minor diplomatic brouhaha unfolded between the two governments.
Can the entourage of reporters accompanying the president – a few dozen American and foreign journalists -freely move about while visiting Riyadh?
At first, the answer was no.
“While in Saudi Arabia, therefore, journalists are expressly prohibited from leaving the hotel or engaging in any journalistic activities outside of coverage of the POTUS visit,” a memorandum from the United States Embassy said on Monday. “Those who do so risk arrest and detention by Saudi authorities.”
The strict rules, for journalists to be confined to the Marriott hotel in Riyadh, touched off a bit of a stir throughout the day on Monday. By evening, a communications firm in Washington hired by the Saudi Arabian government sent a clarification.
“We don’t know where the guidance to journalists came from but it is not at all accurate,” Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi envoy to the United States said in a message passed along to reporters. “Journalists coming to Saudi are encouraged to go wherever and cover whatever they wish.”
Officials offered no explanation for the change in policy. By Tuesday morning, the United States embassy in Riyadh issued its own correction. But the other rules still apply, including this: “Do not photograph women, mosques, government buildings, airports, military facilities, souqs, old buildings, homes or Saudi nationals.”So as the White House press corps departed Andrew Air Force Base on Tuesday, reporters suddenly had a few hours of exploration in Riyadh to look forward to – outside the hotel, without their cameras – before Mr. Obama arrives on Wednesday to begin a five-day trip to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany and France.”

{Blogs-NY Times/Elisha Newscenter}