As Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman uses the two-day G-20 summit that began today for his first reappearance on the international stage since journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, RSF warns of the dangers of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, where at least 28 journalists and bloggers are currently detained.
“Any let-up in pressure, any decision to compromise, would not only be a defeat for morality and the law, but would also be tantamount to giving the Saudi regime a ‘licence to kill’ and to imprison,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Democratic governments have a duty and an obligation to take action in order to obtain an international enquiry and to introduce press freedom in Saudi Arabia. This would mean the swift release of the 30 or so journalists and bloggers held arbitrarily without trial or serving unjust prison sentences for using their right to freedom of expression and opinion.”
RSF is calling for the creation of an international enquiry on the initiative of United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres so that appropriate sanctions can be taken against those responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.
At least 28 journalists and bloggers are currently detained in Saudi Arabia, according to RSF’s tally. Some were arrested several years ago, under King Salman or his predecessor, King Abdullah. They include the blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced in 2012 to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam.”
Others were arrested during the crackdown launched in the autumn of 2017 by the current crown prince. They include three women – a journalist, a columnist and a blogger – who defend women’s rights. All were jailed without any official charge being brought against them. Most of the detained journalists are still awaiting trial.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 169th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.