IFJ Condemns "Brutal and Inhumane" Saudi Action Against Woman Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists(IFJ) today condemned a Saudi Arabian Court judgement sentencing a woman journalist to 60 lashes as “brutal, inhumane and unjust” and called for the punishment order to be overturned.

Rozanna al-Yami was convicted on Saturday of involvement in a television show, in which a Saudi man publicly talked about sex. According to reports she is the first Saudi woman journalist to be given such a punishment.

In the programme, which was broadcast by the Lebanese LBC satellite channel in July this year, the man, Mazen Abdul-Jawad, appears to describe an active sex life and shows sex toys that were blurred by the programme-makers. He was arrested and sentenced earlier this month to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes.

The case caused an outcry in the country where such public talk is regarded as scandalous, but the IFJ says that the conviction of the journalist for her part in the preparation of the programme and advertising it on the Internet sets a precedent for “intimidation and restriction of free expression.”

“Journalists around the world will be appalled by this sentence,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This is brutal, inhumane and unjust. It illustrates neglect for free expression and free journalism and shows how Saudi Arabia is out of touch with the modern world.”

The IFJ is particularly concerned that the case was not heard before a court specialised in media matters and could have been in violation of Saudi law. Journalists when they come before the courts normally have the right for their work responsibilities to be considered.

Three other men who appeared on the show - Bold Red Line - were also convicted of discussing sex publicly and sentenced to two years imprisonment and 300 lashes each.

The IFJ has also expressed concern at the government’s action in closing down two of LBC's offices in the kingdom. “The action in this case has been disproportionate,” said White. “Imprisonment and physical punishment are not appropriate ways to hold media to account. It’s time that Saudi Arabia made reforms to sweep away this unspeakable form of legal intimidation.”

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