Thursday, January 03, 2008

No freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia

Fouad al-Farhan runs one of Saudi Arabia's most popular blogs, blogging in support of "freedom, dignity, justice, equality, public participation and the other lost Islamic values". On December 10, he was arrested by the Saudi authorities, and has been detained for the last three weeks without charge. His crime? Criticising Saudi Arabia's pervasive corruption and highlighting the plight of political prisoners. For his efforts, it seems he will now be joining them.

This is the first time a blogger has been jailed in Saudi Arabia, but it is unlikely to be the last. But the Saudi regime regularly jails other writers and activists. Last February, 10 academics were detained as "supporters of terrorism" for advocating democratic reform, while in July two of the country's most prominent reformers were similarly detained. As the web becomes a more powerful forum for advocating change, the Saudi regime will no doubt try and extend its oppression there as well.

If you'd like to protest against this, you can email the Saudi Ambassador to New Zealand (who sadly resides in Australia) here.