ISSN: 17519411
First published in 2008
2 issues per volume
Volume 2 Issue 1&2
Cover Date: November 2009
Friend or Foe? Saudi Arabia in the British Press post 9/11
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Authors:  Bader S. M. al-Saud 
DOI: 10.1386/jammr.2.1and2.39/1

orientalism, sensationalism, Saudi Arabia, tabloidization, Islam, Islamophobia, bin Laden

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had been firmly placed in the media spotlight following the participation of fifteen Saudi nationals in the September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. For the international media, this catastrophe turned into an ongoing media event. The British press was no exception. This study analyses the portrayal of Saudi Arabia in four British Sunday newspapers, The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Mirror and The News of the World, over three time periods: (1) immediately after 9/11; (2) the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001; (3) the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. A combination of content and qualitative analysis methods were employed to examine and categorize the newspaper articles that make references to Saudi Arabia. While the Sunday tabloids employed bin Laden as a figurehead to ‘sexup’ their stories and in turn demonize Saudi Arabia, they utilized a tabloid format through which to criticize Islam and Islamic culture. In contrast, the more highbrow Sunday newspapers veered away from this style: their need to pander to their readers was evident in downgrading the strength of Arab society relative to that in the West. The more liberal Observer newspaper often focused on themes which questioned the human rights record of the Kingdom as well as the role of religion in the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. However, The Sunday Times adopted a more sensationalist journalistic style utilizing bin Laden as a vehicle through which to portray the problems inherent in Saudi Arabia, suggesting that a revolution instigated by bin Laden could trigger the fall of the Kingdom. A more complex and in-depth reporting of the involvement of the Saudi state against the terror cells originating from the Kingdom's anti-monarchy factions was not evident; instead new articles published in The Sunday Times and The Observer reinforced previously established ideas and norms as they were often rehashed stories with little new information or direction.
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