Saudi Arabia issues tough guidelines to stop misinformation on weather and climate

Saudi Arabia's new government guidelines aim to curb rumour-mongering on social media

Men use an umbrella during rain in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
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People issuing weather warnings in Saudi Arabia could face harsh fines and jail sentences following new government guidelines regulating weather forecasting in the kingdom.

According to the National Centre of Meteorology, unscrupulous social media users are issuing weather warnings in an attempt to gain followers or advertising revenue for unofficial websites.

Amateur forecasters and rumour-mongers “gain followers and benefit from advertising and financial gains,” despite having no formal qualifications in meteorology, a spokesman for the Centre told Arab News.

Stiff penalties for misinforming the public could include a jail sentence of up to 10 years or a fine of 2 million Saudi Riyals, or over $500,000. The new regulations will take effect in six month's time.

“It is forbidden to carry out sovereign meteorological services concerned with meteorological activities, products, and information related to national security, and what is related in this regard is limited to the National Centre of Meteorology,” the centre’s Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution said on twitter.

Saudi Arabia’s National Centre of Meteorology is tasked with providing an array of weather data in the kingdom, vital for scientific studies in agriculture, real time air and maritime navigation as well as weather warnings.

The latter is especially because heavy rain can cause dangerous flash flooding in some areas.

The centre’s website says the government agency provides, “high quality services for weather and climate to protect the lives and development support, in addition to everything related to meteorological locally and regionally.”