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Saudi king sponsors radio phone-in programme for citizens’ grievances

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by London-based newspaper Al-Hayat on 17 May

    [Report by Mu'awiyah Yasin in Riyadh: "Saudi Radio Station Joins ' Open Councils' in addressing people's grievances."]

    Since the era of Saudi Arabia founder, King Abd-al-Aziz Bin-Abd-al-Rahman Al Sa'ud, the Saudi people with grievances have always resorted to the king's ' open council', which is neither restricted by 'protocol' nor confined to those who are officially invited. The Saudi kings' councils have remained 'open' since the era of the founder king and continues in the era of King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, who added an innovative tool to the " democracy of the open council." The king sponsors a phone-in radio programme where the callers are not subjected to the "censor's scissor", whether they complain against an official, a minister, or a prince.

    The moderator of the radio programme, Salamah al-Zayd said that the programme focuses on the rule of law, fighting corruption, and addressing people's grievances. Al-Zayd (49 years old) told Al-Hayat that he received instructions to announce on air that the programme "Live FM", which is transmitted from Jedda by the second programme radio every Monday evening, and repeated every Wednesday morning, is presented "under direct patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques." He added that the programme receives direct phone calls from citizens all over the kingdom, who outline their problems and grievances.

    Al-Zayd says:" At the end of each episode, I would be in direct contact with the Royal Court. Usually, the link between the programme and the king is coordinated through Shaykh Muhammad Suwaylim, director of the Royal Court's employees' affairs, to whom I provide citizens' names and phone numbers, then he calls them one by one asking for their papers and petitions in order to resolve their issues."

    Al-Zayd pointed out that in the past, he was moderating a programme entitled" Dotting the I's", but his boss in the radio station stopped it under the pretext that the programme had an excessive boldness while addressing grievances. He mentioned that he welcomes any response or comment by the ministers but added that "however, I will not beg any one of them. Are the ministers more busy in their meetings and schedules than the king and the crown prince? It never occurred that the king said to his people that he is busy. He is always present in his council to receive people's grievances no matter how tired he is."

    Al-Zayd said that when some ministers and officials, who showed annoyance of his boldness in supporting the callers' cases, realized that the programme is patronized by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, they preferred to call the Royal Court to complain against the "loud mouthed" moderator.

    Al-Zayd added that the newspapers refuse to publish 20 per cent of the humanitarian cases and complaints that he receives from his programme's callers, under the pretext that they are "redlines". He said:" This is a shame, I believe that this programme has revealed the flows of the chief editors."

    Al-Zayd said that the programme received a call from a citizen in which he mentioned that he had a row with a governor and his deputy and admitted that he slandered them. He wanted to complain against them to Prince Salman Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, the Amir of Riyadh area. He added that the man was told that Prince Salman was heard saying that "if this man came to me complaining, I will hit him first", so the man decided not to go to the prince, but to his surprise, the prince summoned him and told him: "I am angry because you have are grievance, not because you said so and so, now you choose a committee of three of the governorate's officials, and I will order that whatever this committee decides will be carried out."

    These are examples of the "democratic" rule which adapts to the logic of time, place, and the nature of the ruler and society, without publicity, exaggeration or bragging. This democracy can be eloquently described as the democracy of "every one of you is a guardian and responsible for his charge [Prophet Muhammad saying]."

    Source: Al-Hayat, London, in Arabic 17 May 07



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