Freelance reporter Marwan al-Mureisi covered technology and social media platforms and steered clear of politics throughout his career of more than a decade as a journalist. He was arrested on June 1, 2018, and finally was allowed to contact him family almost a year later. No charges have been disclosed.
Authorities arrested al-Mureisi on June 1, 2018, at the Specialized Medical Center Hospital in Riyadh, while he was at the bedside of his five-year-old son, according to Khatab Alrawhani, a Yemeni journalist in Washington, D.C., with knowledge of al-Mureisi’s case, citing sources close to al-Mureisi. His arrest was also reported by the human rights organization Al-Qst, which said in a joint statement with other international rights groups that he was arrested at his home.
Alrawhani told CPJ that al-Mureisi’s son was left alone in the hospital, and that relatives later received a call of unknown origin telling them to go to the hospital to attend to him.
Al-Mureisi wrote for the privately owned Saudi website Al-Sabq and other outlets, as well as posting on his Twitter account and YouTube channel. Alrawhani told CPJ that al-Mureisi did not touch on politics, religion, or sensitive social issues in his reporting, which was mainly technology-focused.
The human rights organization Al-Karama similarly reported that al-Mureisi did not report on politics. The organization said al-Mureisi once appeared on a program hosted by Salman al-Awdah, a television cleric who himself was later detained, and discussed how internet technology could reach the Arab world. In September 2017, authorities under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began arresting perceived dissidents, including journalists, academics, religious figures, and activists, including those who were previously critical of the Saudi government, as well as independent thinkers and writers who did not publicly state their support for the crown prince or his policies.
On May 13, 2019, al-Mureisi’s sister said in a tweet that he had contacted the family by phone and confirmed that he was being held by Saudi authorities.
In October 2019, Alrawhani told CPJ that al-Mureisi’s family was allowed to visit him once a month and talk to him on the phone once a week. Alrawhani said al-Mureisi was last interrogated in July 2019 and was told that he would be released soon, and that he would not appear before a court; however, he said there had been no further updates since then. According to Alrawhani, al-Mureisi is being held at Al-Hair prison in Riyadh.
According to human rights groups, Saudi authorities have banned visitors from prisons since March 2020 due to COVID-19. In July 2020, a Twitter account purporting to belong to al-Mureisi’s wife posted that the family had been allowed to speak to him on the phone for the first time in two months. CPJ was unable to verify that the account belongs to al-Mureisi’s wife.
As of April 2020, al-Mureisi had not faced any formal charges, according to Al Qst and as of September 2020, CPJ could not determine if he had appeared before a judge or had any court hearings. As of September 2020, CPJ could not determine the status of al-Mureisi’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-Mureisi, 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 returned.