Dissenters jailed for up to five years and fined hundreds of thousands of pounds
'Social media users who post or share satire that attacks religion will be imprisoned for up to five years under strict new laws introduced in Saudi Arabia.
Those found guilty of distributing content online deemed to “disrupt public order”, would also be subject to a fine of three million riyals (£625,000), the Middle Eastern country’s public prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Twitter.
It said: “Producing and distributing content that ridicules, mocks, provokes and disturbs public order, religious values and public morals through social media will be considered a cybercrime.”
Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing a programme of sweeping reforms in a bid to modernise sections of its deeply conservative society.
Its population is one of the most engaged with social media in the Middle East, but online dissent has been discouraged with the threat of imprisonment.
In 2012, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years behind bar and 1,000 lashes after he was convicted of cybercrimes and insulting Islam.
Mr Badawi was arrested after writing articles on the now banned Free Saudi Liberals website, which he co-founded, criticising Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics and advocating the liberalisation of the country’s austere Wahhabist system.'
Read more: Saudi Arabia prosecutor says people who post satire on social media can be jailed