Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its appeal to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to pardon Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison who has just been awarded the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
The father of three children, Badawi has been held for more than three years for creating an online discussion forum. A Saudi court imposed the barbaric sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison under the Sharia in 2014. He received the RSF Press Freedom Prize in the Netizen category the same year. After a first session of 50 lashes in January 2015, subsequent flogging sessions were postponed on health grounds but they could resume at any time. The supreme court upheld his sentence in June 2015, dashing any further hope of appeal. RSF has been campaigning for Badawi’s release for months, launching a petition that has gathered nearly 50,000 signatures and, in a joint initiative with its national sections and foreign bureaux, writing to heads of state and government such as US President Barack Obama, French President François Hollande and Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy, urging them to intercede with the Saudi authorities on his behalf. The Saudi authorities tolerate no independent media outlets and have been steadily tightening their grip on the Internet since the Arab spring in 2011. Online information is closely controlled and the regime does not hesitate to use security grounds and a draconian cyber-crime law to jail bloggers. Saudi Arabia is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.