(AP) In a bid to improve conditions for its journalists, Saudi Arabia on Monday approved the establishment of a press association, the state-run press agency reported.
Journalists welcomed the creation of the union representing their interests, but said much more had to be done in the secretive kingdom where the state dominates even private newspapers.
The union will “boost the role of the media” and “grant journalists a great deal of security, confidence, and a greater sense of responsibility,” Information Minister Fouad al-Farsi said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Although the kingdom has more than a dozen newspapers, many Saudis rely primarily on satellite television stations to receive important local and international news. Saudi papers are privately owned but heavily state-influenced.
“This is the start of a long journey, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Khaled al-Maeena, editor-in-chief of the English-language daily Arab News, told The Associated Press. “It will enhance the media and protect the rights of the media people and give them a sense of security.”
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has taken unprecedented steps to encourage debate and explore reform, including receiving a U.N. human rights team and a New York-based Human Rights Watch delegation.