Saudi authorities have warned that spreading “rumours” about “public order” is punishable by up to five years in prison and a heavy fine, following online allegations of sexual harassment cases.
The ultra-conservative kingdom canceled a concert at the last minute on Friday due to heavy rain, causing panic among the audience. Then several netizens mentioned cases of women who had been sexually harassed when they left the building after the concert was cancelled.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office warned in a statement that “publishing or contributing in any way to the dissemination of rumors and lies via social media on matters of public order is a serious crime.”
He added that the Public Prosecution summoned several people, adding that their actions are punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and the equivalent of about 705,000 euros.
However, the authorities, who did not specify the content of these “rumours”, stressed, however, that they were “unfounded.”
“We are constantly sexually harassed at such concerts, but I did not see anything that evening,” a woman, who asked not to be identified, told AFP.
Experts say making sexual harassment accusations a criminal offense may deter women from filing complaints and even talking about them on social media.
Sexual harassment remains a taboo topic in Saudi Arabia even though it has recently become a crime. The May 2018 law punishes him with a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of around 70,000 euros.
A Saudi court recently ordered “for the first time” the publication in the press of the name of a man convicted of sexual harassment, a new ruling considered more deterrent.
Once banned, pop music parties, like other entertainments, have proliferated in recent years in Saudi Arabia, where until recently there was strict gender segregation.
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