New York, February 8, 2018–A specialized criminal court in Saudi Arabia sentenced al-Watan columnist Saleh al-Shehi to five years in prison for “insulting the royal court,” and imposed a five-year travel ban that will go into effect on his release, according to a report published today in the privately-owned Saudi newspaper Okaz. Saudi security forces arrested al-Shehi on January 3 in connection with his appearance on the Rotana Channel’s show “Yahalla,” in which he discussed corruption and the royal court, according to reports. Al-Shehi regularly reported on corruption in his columns, reports said.
“The emerging leadership’s promises of openness and reform in Saudi Arabia seem to end where critical reporting and independent journalism begin,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour, in Washington, D.C. “Saudi authorities should free Saleh al-Shehi immediately and stop going after journalists who report inconvenient news.”
- At the time of CPJ’s December prison census, at least seven journalists were jailed for their work in Saudi Arabia.