Saudi Arabia has banned hotels and tourist facilities from airing Al Jazeera news channels and threatened to punish violators with the closure of their facility and a fine of up to $26,000.
In a statement released on Friday, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage ordered that “all channels from the Al Jazeera Media Network must be removed” and replaced with channels compatible with “official Saudi television ones”.
“The Commission hereby reiterates that all of the Al Jazeera Network’s channels must be removed from all hotel rooms and touristic facilities and furnished residential units, totally and entirely, including the TV lists kept within,” the circular said.
“Any facility acting in violation of the aforesaid Circular will be held liable and be penalized with a fine amounting up to SR100,000 or the cancelation of its license; or both the penalties.”
Since a diplomatic row escalated between Gulf states and Qatar on Monday, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have threatened lengthy jail terms and fines for their nationals sympathising with Qatar on social media.
The UAE said offenders would face a jail term from three to 15 years, and a fine not less than AED 500,000 ($136,000).
Slogans in support of Qatar have been among the top topics discussed on Twitter in Arabic, which is a hugely popular medium of expression in the Arab world.
Along with severing diplomatic ties with Qatar, a Riyadh-led blockade was imposed against Doha. Saudi, which shares the only land border with Qatar, shut the crossing and halted transport of goods into it neighbour.
Saudi, the UAE and Bahrain also closed their airspace to flights from and to Qatar, forcing airlines to remove Doha from their list of destinations.
The move stranded thousands of passengers and resulted in lost revenues to airlines caught up in the rift.
The International Air Transport Association pleaded that air links be restored, but its request has so far been met with silence.
The dispute between Qatar and the Arab countries escalated after a recent hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency.[Source: Al jazeera]