Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger who was awarded the 2014 RSF Press Freedom Prize in the Netizen category, could be released soon.
RSF has been campaigning for many months for the release of Badawi, who has been sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes.The possibility of a pardon was mentioned at the end of last week by the Swiss foreign ministry’s secretary of state after an official visit to Saudi Arabia. He said Badawi’s sentence had been suspended while a proposed pardon was being considered. RSF hopes that the pardon materializes and that its many appeals to the Saudi king will finally lead to Badawi’s release.“The release of the winner of the 2014 RSF Press Freedom Prize and the 2015 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought would send a strong message to the international community,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.“We urge the Saudi authorities to approve Raif Badawi’s pardon and we hope that we will soon be able to see this young blogger released and reunited with his family. We meanwhile remain vigilant and call for the international pressure to be maintained."As part of its campaign, RSF launched a petition for Badawi’s release in December 2014 that has gathered more than 50,000 signatures.Badawi was arrested in June 2012 and was sentenced in May 2014 under Saudi Arabia’s cyber-crime law to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a heavy fine for “insulting Islam” on the discussion website he created.His case is emblematic of the crackdown on dissidents in Saudi Arabia.Nine journalists and citizen-journalists are currently detained in Saudi Arabia, which is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.