A reporter for the newspapers Al-Sharq, El Bilad and Okaz, Alaa Brinji was arrested in the eastern city of Dammam on 13 May 2014 and was initially sentenced in March 2016 to five years in prison and a fine of 50,000 riyals but, when he appealed, the jail term was increased to seven years.
Brinji was convicted of violating article 6 of the cyber-crime law, mocking religious figures and Saudi leaders, and “inciting public opinion.” His alleged crimes also included “accusing members of the security forces of killing demonstrators” in the eastern city of Awamia.
According to RSF’s information, he was not defended by a lawyer at any point in this legal process and his request for his case to be heard again on appeal was not accepted because the judge who originally convicted him under laws protecting religious feelings was himself arrested in a crackdown on suspected government opponents that began last September.
“When a journalist is sentenced to years in prison just for tweets or Facebook posts about religion or police impunity, how can one accept Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s talk of reforms and modernity?” RSF said while joining forces with two other human rights organizations to call for Alaa Brinji’s release pending a fair appeal hearing.
The Saudi kingdom tolerates no media freedom and persecution of journalists has increased steadily since the Arab spring in 2011 and again since Mohammad bin Salman’s appointment as crown prince in June 2017. At least 11 journalists and citizen-journalists are officially imprisoned while around 15 other professional and non-professional journalists are being held without any official confirmation.
The joint letter from RSF, the European Saoudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR), the Advocating for Human Rights in Saudia Arabia (ALQST) is available here.