Security forces arrested al-Maatiq and al-Salam, managers of the critical news website Al-Fajr Cultural Network, in the city of Jubail in connection with the site’s coverage of pro-reform protests in Eastern Province, news outlets reported. The website posts videos from Shia leaders including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, as well as Saudi sheikhs.
Al-Maatiq and al-Salam were being tried in the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh as of late 2013, local news reports said. The government had not disclosed any charges against them. CPJ viewed a purported court indictment that said the pair was charged under Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law, which prohibits the production, storage, and transmission of material on information networks that disturbs public order, but the veracity of the document could not be confirmed. According to the document, the indictment includes a teacher, Reda al-Baharna, and an engineer, Montazer al-Aqili, who are accused of contributing to Al-Fajr and social media outlets.
The kingdom has obstructed coverage of Eastern Province protests, which call for political reforms and greater rights for the country’s Shia minority, CPJ research shows. No international or local journalists had been allowed to enter the province, and in the absence of independent reporting, coverage of the unrest was carried out by websites such as Al-Fajr Cultural Network.