Saudi Web manager released after a year in prison

News accounts reported that Jalal Mohamed al-Jamal, manager of the local news website Al-Awamia, was freed from prison on March 5, 2013. It was unclear why the journalist, who was jailed without charge for more than a year, had been released.

Al-Jamal was arrested on February 25, 2012, in the city of Al-Qatif, news reports said. He had played an instrumental role in covering anti-government protests in the Eastern Province and had often criticized the Saudi government. Al-Awamia was temporarily shut down after his arrest, the reports said.

“I am surprised. Everyone around me is surprised,” al-Jamal said, according to a local journalist. “We don’t know what game is being played.”

A local journalist said al-Jamal had initially been arrested on accusations of opposing the state and inciting its downfall, but that the charges had not been made public.

CPJ documented the arrest of at least two other Web managers the same month that al-Jamal was detained. Habib Ali al-Maatiq and Hussein Malik al-Salam, both photographers who supervised the news website Al-Fajr Cultural Network, which covered the protests, remain behind bars.

The kingdom obstructed coverage of protests in the Eastern Province, which called for political reforms and greater rights for the country’s Shiite minority, CPJ research shows. No foreign or local journalists were allowed to enter the province, and in the absence of independent reporting, coverage of the unrest was carried out by websites like Al-Fajr Cultural Network and Al-Awamia.