The country is one the world’s harshest towards press freedom, with hardline religious elements and the fight against terrorism holding back political reforms. King Fahd died on 1 August 2005, but his successor Prince Abdallah, long the de facto ruler because of Fahd’s ill-health, has not continued minor political reforms he himself had began in 2004.
The media is tightly controlled by the Al-Saud family and the Higher Media Council, chaired by interior minister Prince Nayef, keeps a grip on all news. Some daily papers are foreign-owned but can only be set up by royal decree and their managers must be approved by the government. The four TV stations are run by the culture and information ministry. Saudis prefer watching satellite stations, however, and more and more homes have dish-receivers though these are officially forbidden. The pan-Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera has been banned since 2003 and foreign journalists are rarely granted visas to enter the country.