Saudi Arabia blocks websites of two Turkish media

Relations between Ankara and Riyadh have deteriorated since 2018
Logo of the Turkish news agency, Anadolu

 -   Logo of the Turkish news agency, Anadolu

The Saudi Ministry of Information did not issue an official statement on the blockade of the Turkish news agency 'Anadolu' until Sunday morning, 12 April. Before that announcement, the news had already spread through social networks: "the site is blocked for violating the ministry's regulations", according to Saudi activists.  

The intense campaign by Saudi bots against the news agency, which, according to the agency itself, began a few days ago, seemed to be the beginning of the ban. The Saudi Arabian kingdom has made no official announcement about the ban. Only one email, allegedly sent from the Saudi Ministry of Information, referred to "violations of ministry regulations"

Several activists and media in Saudi Arabia confirmed this media ban since Saturday night. The newspaper Al Marsad confirmed the news, adding that "several websites of Turkish organisations have been blocked". "The website of the 'Anadolu' Agency was blocked in the kingdom," said Saudi News 50, an unofficial Twitter account dedicated to sharing news related to Saudi Arabia. Twitter users, including the media, journalists and well-known public figures confirmed the blocking of the Arabic version of the website.   

According to the local Saudi media, the blockade of 'Anadolu' was carried out because of "multiple insults to the Saudi kingdom and violations of the Ministry's regulations". The Turkish news agency denounced the attack on the agency by several 'trolls' from the pro-regime social networks last week, through a hashtag that demanded the agency to be removed, "justifying this by claims of misrepresentation and abuse against their country". The TRT Arabic website was also blocked by the Saudi authorities, according to screenshots that Saudi activists uploaded to their Twitter accounts. 

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey have worsened since the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul. Last month, Turkish prosecutors charged 20 suspects including two former top aides to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the brutal 2018 murder of Riyadh critic Khashoggi. Turkey conducted its own investigation after disliking Saudi Arabia's explanations of what happened. The assassination then led to a worsening of relations between Ankara and Riyadh, already old rivals.  

Less than a year ago, the Middle East Eye web news portal published Bin Salman's 'strategic plan' to confront Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. The 'roadmap' detailed tools to pressure and weaken the Ankara government, with the aim of restricting Turkey's influence in the region