The September National Geographic

This month’s National Geographic went on sale at newsstands around the Kingdom yesterday. It has zebras on the cover and a big article about modern-day slavery.

The Saudi censors ripped out a half-dozen pages.

Draw your own conclusions.

How many conclusions do you want me to draw? (Hint: next time, just e-mail a mod to have your subject line changed.)

But seriously, I have no idea what conclusion I should be drawing here. Wanna fill me in?

WAG: The article on slavery was the one removed, the implication being that the state either condones or practices slavery.

I’m sorry Much, it is late here and I am afraid I am not following what you are trying to say. Was there something wrong with my OP?

Well, that makes sense, but what do the zebras have to do with it? :confused:

No, it’s just that I really don’t know what conclusion we’re supposed to be coming to. That comes mainly from the fact that it took me a while to realize what “the Kingdom” is, and where you’re located. But I don’t have any prior knowledge of any history of slavery in Saudia Arabia.

Slavery is allowed under Islam. The Government seems to prohibit it nowadays. Still large number of expats (like me) work here.

The Saudis are known for abusing the Third-World workers here and at times (I guess) this abuse amounts to slavery.

I cannot tell you much more as I do not have access to the NG article for obvious reasons.

Thanks for the info. I did some digging at and here’s what I found:

Here is part of the article. NG wants you to buy the magazine to get the whole story. There are quite a few sidebar “Online Extra” pieces to flesh it out a bit, if you’re so interested.

They also have an e-mail address: for online feedback. I doubt they’re very timely on responses, but I’d bet all the change in my pocket that they’d e-mail you the whole article if you explained your situation. I’m sure they’d find the censorship very interesting (but they probably already knew).

Paul, can they open or censor personal mail from out of the country? If you want the hardcopy of the article I’ll get the magazine for you.

Not long before the breakup of the Soviet Union I saw a short article in the magazine about a Geographic collector in Latvia. I wrote to the magazine for his mailing address, as I am a big collector too. At the time he was missing a few magazines, from the 40’s to the 70’s especially. The mags had been confiscated from the postal system. Some he had but individual articles had been torn out, particularly anything that mentioned the American space program. By the time I was writing to him detente was in the air and I got him those he was missing.

NG has some purty pictures, but I have never found the articles too “fair and balanced” and so I tend to be fairly skepticle about what I read in them. Not saying they are unreliable, but they tend to make every subject a bit too “quaint” for my taste. I actually shit-canned my subscription a few years ago.

How is Rap like Porn? Both are better with the sound turned off.

They really have a problem with zebras, huh?

There are about 14 pages about slavery, some of them reporting on the sale of prostitutes along with pictures of young women in skimpy outfits. The censors might have been more focused on that, than the larger issue of slavery.

Yes, indeed.

<Publisher Hat ON>

This is one of the more astonishing acts of editorial cowardice in recent years. Possibly in decades.

That damn slavery article has all the punch of a jackhammer. Well written, damning and downright mean.

And the idiots put the damn cute zebras on the cover. That slavery article deserved to be the cover and should have slapped the reader upside the head with the fact that slavery is real…not just something is dusty books. Instead they went safe.

National G doesn’t often have real hardcore stories and reporting. They’re more a features and human interest magazine (one of the best, actually). But for once they did something that gave them real editorial credibility.

And they apparently lost their nerve.

Cowards. I would have slapped the reader with a picture of some 6 year old dying from hunger while struggling to make one more rug while some overseer slapped her with a bamboo cane. I would have done everything to make the situation so gripping it would have forced some of the readers to confront the issue. I would have hit all the news outlets with a PR campaign and taken out print ads in the New York Times and Washington Post and tried to get it mentioned in Congress and White House Press briefings.

Damn it. One of the first journalistic rules (unwritten) is that when you’ve got something explosive don’t run from it…run with it.

Suppose Bill Bradley told Woodward and Bernstein, “Whoa…this might be too much for us. I’m gonna bury this sucker on page A29.”


<Publisher hat OFF>

I skimmed the article and found Saudi Arabia mentioned once, in a list of countries headed, “Countries where more than a hundred human beings are known to have been trafficked last year:”

It all a misunerstanding I had when the Prince, myself and the Hilton sister were trying to break the bank at Monte Carlo. He said ‘Pass me the shoe’ and I thought he said ‘Pass me some Gnu’.

Hilarity did not ensue.

Thanks for the offer. My brother is saving the issue for me and I will read it when I fly home for my November vacation.

Paul: Looks like you will have even more trouble with the October issue, which has a cover story on Saudi Arabia. I just read that the Saudis just banned the entire issue.

The authorities in Saudi do indeed take a look at private mail. Christmas cards are especially frowned on. Simple letters are usually not bothered unless there are photos inside. I’ve often thought that an extremely nasty practical joke would be to pay for a years subscription to Hustler for someone in the Kingdom.

As Paul in Saudi mentioned, the Asian domestic help here is often treated extremely badly and paid damn near nothing.
Most alarming, Asians have their passports taken away when they arrive. Without a valid passport, people cannot leave and have to accept whatever is done to them. They aren’t quite enslaved but the differences are few.