Thursday, November 18, 2010

Saudi Arabia: Journalist Sentenced to Public Lashing

Reporter Wrote About Protests Over Electricity Shortages

Human Rights Watch, November 15, 2010
 
King Abdullah has encouraged citizens to voice their legitimate concerns. But apparently those who do can expect a public lashing and a prison term.
Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch
(New York) – Saudi authorities should overturn a sentence of 50 lashes and two months in prison for a journalist who wrote about public anger over electricity cuts, Human Rights Watch said today.

On October 26, 2010, the General Court in Qubba in northern Saudi Arabia imposed the sentence on Fahd al-Jukhaidib, Qubba correspondent for Al-Jazira, a daily national newspaper. He was charged with “incitement to gather in front of the electricity company” for reporting that citizens had been gathering to protest. He has appealed the verdict and remains at liberty.


“King Abdullah has encouraged citizens to voice their legitimate concerns,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But apparently those who do can expect a public lashing and a prison term.”

Al-Jukhaidib’s article describing the difficulties Qubba residents were experiencing as a result of frequent power cuts was published in Al-Jazira on September 7, 2008. The article, “Qubba Residents Gather to Demand Electricity,” did not include a call for action but described the protest and the protesters’ concerns:
Hundreds of citizens gathered in front of an electricity station in Qubba demanding that the company supply electricity in the town of Qubba. Repeated outages had caused damage to electrical appliances in houses and material losses for commercial business, and led to the declaration of an emergency situation for sick persons, in particular children and the elderly with asthma.
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