IntroductionThe introduction of the internet has seen massive changes on the access of information being implemented across the globe (Ghareeb 2000, p. 395). Millions of people are accessing the internet to access information on given topics of their choice, others are using the internet for entertainment, and some are using the internet for business purposes, while others are accessing news about various incidents. Online journalism has become the new trend for both business organizations and for media agencies. The media agencies have found the internet to be an effective platform through which they can share real-time news and reach a wide number of the audience.
However, there have been concerns on the online news credibility across the world. Such concerns hold a lot of weight as journalism is a field characterized with utter credibility, for the journalists are expected to give truthful and reliable accounts of news instances to their audience (Alawad 2010). If any press does not win the trust and confidence of the audience, then the attention of the general public which makes its audience shifts to other press firms.
This has been the question in Saudi Arabia; how credible are the online news sources? In this regard, the traditional press firms in Saudi Arabia had won the trust of the citizens, until the advent and adoption of the online news sources. The traditional media forms are threat of becoming extinct through competition from the online new sources for attention from the audience. There has been a growing trend in which the public has favoured the access on news through online platforms. A number of studies have been done to respond to the issue of the credibility of online newspapers in Saudi Arabia, and such studies include those by Marwan (2013), Alawad (2010) and Al Qarni (2004).
This paper is a dissertation introduction plan on the credibility of the online news in Saudi Arabia. I justify my findings through extensive and in-depth interviews carried out on users of online newspapers and journalists during my fieldwork that I took in the country on July and August, 2013.Saudi society and online newsAs is the case with most authoritarian governments, the adoption of internet services is not a technological advancement that is easily accepted (Yamani 2000).
Such regimes are forewarned of the impacts of embracing the internet to their governance systems that are alien to democracy. Such was the situation in Saudi Arabia. The adoption of online news platforms has faced similar challenges as the introduction of internet in countries under regimes of authoritarian leaders. In Saudi Arabia, instances of lack enthusiasm on the internet introduction for fear of the political awareness it could create on the Saudis. However, the government changed its reluctance on the adoption of the internet due to consideration of the related economic and commercial advantages of use of internet in the country (Kraidy 2013, p 32).
The adoption of the internet led to other notable developments, and the sector of media underwent massive changes. Transfer and sharing of information became faster. Real-time delivery of news was achieved with the introduction of online media for news reporting. Online newspapers were such an advancement that saw Saudis access information from various parts of the country without discrimination of time.
The government however has shown opposition to such access of news on online platforms for fear of involved political risks. The online newspaper form of media has received both negative and positive criticism over its credibility. Globalization, thus, has been incorporated into the media to realize increased pressure on majorly authoritarian regimes in developing countries. Saudi Arabia is such a country in which bloggers have been charged and arrested. Fouad Al Farhan is a Saudi writer who was a blogger and was arrested and detained for a period of four months.
Seen as the leader of Saudi bloggers, his case remained a controversy, and the local Saudi Arabian traditional newspapers di not divert any attention to this arrest, arguably as they were taking orders from the government to ignore the case. However, this case did receive global attention, starting from bloggers in Saudi Arabia and spreading to other nations worldwide through the internet. Discussions were carried out on various platforms, ranging from international television channels to websites over the internet. Organizations stood up and demanded release of Fouad Al Farhan.
The ‘Reporters Without Borders’ was such an organization which demanded release of Fouad Al Farhan and further gained recognition as potential organization that can publicize minor cases as press suspension into global issues. Such organizations do not accept government action of exerting pressure on online sources of news, and the Saudi government is compelled to seek alternative modes of pressuring online newspapers (Alawad 2010, p. 180; Kraidy 2013, p. 28-42).