Sami al-Thubaiti was one of the first journalists to be arrested in Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s widespread crackdown on perceived dissent. His whereabouts are unknown, and no charges have been disclosed.
Al-Thubaiti was arrested at his home in Mecca in September 2017, according to a report from Al-Qst, a U.K.-based organization that monitors human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
At the time of his arrest, Saudi authorities were detaining activists, dissidents, media figures, and religious personalities amid a power struggle within the royal family in which Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman amassed wide-ranging power, according to news reports. Authorities said the arrests were aimed at cracking down on people assisting “foreign powers working to undermine the monarchy,” according to reports. Journalists arrested included those who did not publicly state their support for the crown prince or his policies, had otherwise not written about politics, or had not been active for some time.
CPJ’s review of a selection of posts on the journalist’s Twitter feed found some tweets calling for unity among Middle East nations, but no posts that were overly critical of the Saudi authorities.
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-Thubaiti, 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.