Ahmed al-Suwian, chairman of the board of Al-Bayan magazine and of the Islamic Press Association, was arrested in 2017, one of several religious figures swept up in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on the press. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but CPJ has been unable to determine on what charge.
Al-Suwian is chairman of the board of Al-Bayan magazine and of the Islamic Press Association, according to Qatari-based Al-Jazeera. According to a CPJ review of Al-Bayan‘s website, the magazine covered domestic, regional, and international politics largely in line with the views of the Saudi establishment. However, the magazine also published pieces critical of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians and in the region. Under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia’s minister of defense, the kingdom has become increasingly close strategically to Israel, according to news reports.
As of late 2019, CPJ was not able to contact Al-Bayan for comment due to the contact page on the publication’s website being offline.
On September 3, 2020, a specialized criminal court in Riyadh sentenced al-Suwian to three years in prison, according to Saudi-focused, London-based human rights organization Al-Qst. According to Al-Qst he was charged alongside at least five other defendants, including journalist Fahd al-Sunaidi. CPJ was unable to determine for what charges al-Suwain was sentenced. Al-Suwian’s sentence included time already served, Al-Qst said, but as of September 2020, CPJ was unable to confirm whether al-Suwian was released or if his release was imminent. Also as of September 2020, CPJ was unable to determine the status of al-Suwian’s health.
In October 2020, CPJ emailed the spokesperson and the media office for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. for comment about journalists held in Saudi prisons, including al-Suwian, but received automated messages that the emails were not delivered. The same month, CPJ also sent a request for comment to an email listed on the website of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Royal Court, but received a message saying the address did not exist. CPJ also emailed the Saudi Ministry of Media and sent a message through the website of the Saudi Center for International Communication, but neither request was answered.