Postal, telephone, cable, and wireless services are regulated by the Ministry of Communications. Sa'udi Arabia is directly connected by radiotelephone with the US, other Arab countries, and Western Europe, and automatic internal lines connect most of the major cities. The telephone system has been expanded within the last decade and in 1998 some 3.1 million mainline telephones were in use, along with 1 million cellular phones.
All radio and television broadcasting emanates from the government-owned sources of Sa'udi Arabian Broadcasting Service, Sa'udi ARAMCO FM stations, Sa'udi-Arabian TV, and an ARAMCO channel in Dhahran. In 1998, there were 43 AM and 31 FM radio stations. There were 117 television stations in 1997. In 2000, there were 326 radios and 264 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2001, there were about 42 Internet service providers serving nearly 1 million subscribers. Access to the Internet is very strictly monitored by the government.
The first newspaper in what is now Sa'udi Arabia was Al-Qiblah, the official publication of King Hussein of Hijaz, founded in 1915. With the end of the short-lived Hijaz kingdom in 1925, a Sa'udi-sponsored paper, called Umm al-Qura ( The Mother of Towns , Mecca), was established. Newspapers are privately owned; but self-censorship is widely employed. The Ministry of Information appoints all editors-in-chief. Criticism of the fundamental principles of Islam and of basic national institutions, including the royal family, is not permitted. The largest Arabic daily papers (with 2002 circulations) are Al-Asharq Al-Awsat ( The Middle East, 224,990); Al-Riyadh (150,000); Okaz (107,600); and Al-Jazirah ( The Peninsula, 94,000). Leading English-language dailies are the Arab News (110,000) and Sa'udi Gazette (50,000).
The government is said to severely limit freedom of speech and the press, punishing any criticism of Islam, the ruling family, or the government with detention and arrest.