New York, April 8, 2019 — Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately release journalists Thumar al-Marzouqi, Bader al-Ibrahim, Mohammed al-Sadiq, and Abdullah al-Duhailan and stop their brazen campaign against the media, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The four journalists were among at least 12 activists and writers detained by Saudi authorities on April 4, according to The Associated Press and the London-based human rights organization Al-Qst.
The journalists’ locations have not been made public, and no charges against them have been announced. CPJ’s emailed request for comment to the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., did not receive a response.
“With the arrests of these four journalists, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is showing the world that his attitude toward journalists has not changed as a result of the blowback following his government’s killing of Jamal Khashoggi last year,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington, D.C. “Saudi Arabia must immediately release all detained journalists, and the international community must demonstrate that business as usual cannot continue with the kingdom as long as it so blatantly disregards values such as freedom of the press.”
Three of the four journalists wrote for Al-Arabi al-Jadeed, a U.K.-based news website owned by a Qatari company. Saudi authorities have censored Qatari media outlets and demanded their closure since the countries’ diplomatic relations began to deteriorate in 2017, as CPJ has reported.
Al-Sadiq and al-Ibrahim write regularly for Al-Arabi al-Jadeed, according to their author pages on the website. Both have written about sectarian conflicts between Sunni and Shia Muslims and contemporary issues in Saudi Arabia like the kingdom’s economic policies and female guardianship laws, according to a CPJ review of their writing. Al-Ibrahim is a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen, according to news reports.
Al-Marzouqi publishes articles on his own blog, and contributed to Al-Arabi al-Jadeed and the Saudi newspaper Okaz, according to his author pages on each website. He has written about sectarianism and about freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia, according to a CPJ review of his writing.
Al-Duhailan writes for the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat and also hosts the talk show “Al-Markaz,” which is broadcast on social media, according to his author page on Al-Hayat and his social media accounts. Al-Duhailan’s reporting for Al-Hayat has included interviews with women who drove cars in defiance of Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, which was lifted last year, according to a CPJ review of his writing.
All four journalists are associated with activists who campaigned against the now-lifted ban on women driving in the country, The New York Times and Reuters reported.
Al-Marzouqi’s wife, feminist writer Khadija al-Harbi, was also detained on April 4, according to The New York Times. CPJ is also investigating the reported arrests of activist Salah al-Haidar and Yazid al-Faifi, a journalist for the Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq.
At least 16 journalists were behind bars in Saudi Arabia as of December 1, 2018, according to CPJ research, and a recent report in The Guardian detailed the harrowing conditions in prison faced by at least four journalists.