King Abdullah has told Saudi editors to stop publishing pictures of women as they could make young men go astray, newspapers reported Tuesday.
The king's directive, made in a meeting with local editors, caused surprise as the monarch has been regarded a quiet reformer since he took office in the ultra-conservative country last August.
In recent months, newspapers have published pictures of women, always wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf, to illustrate stories with increasing regularity. Usually the stories have had to do with women's issues. The papers have also started publishing a range of views on causes that are not generally accepted in Saudi Arabia, such as women having the right to drive and vote.
The king told editors on Monday night that publishing a woman's picture for the world to see was inappropriate.
"One must think: do they want their daughter, their sister, or their wife to appear in this way. Of course, no one would accept this," the newspaper Okaz quoted Abdullah as saying.
"The youth are driven by emotion ... and sometimes they can be led astray. So, please, try to cut down on this," he said.
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