Nine Saudis, including seven journalists, writers and bloggers, were arrested by the Saudi authorities from 16 to 21 November, according to sources on the ground.
The detainees include Bader Al-Rashed, a blogger and journalist with the daily Al-Riyadh; Waad Al-Muhaya, the presenter of a podcast on the Thmanyah online media outlet; Abdulaziz Al-Hies, a journalist writing for many media outlets including Alaraby; and two bloggers on the online apprenticeship platform Rwaq, Musab Fuad and Fuad Al-Farhan.
They also include two women journalists: Zana Al-Shahri, who works for the online magazine Al-Asr, and Maha Al-Rafidi, who works for the daily Al-Watan.
Several of these journalists had written about sensitive issues such as human dignity in Saudi Arabia, religious conservatism and progress towards reforms. Others had criticized the public debate and had indicated support for prisoners of conscience.
“On the one hand, the regime tries to project an image of openness and modernization, but on the other, it persists in gagging the press and online media,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.
“This new wave of arrests sends a very bad signal as regards press freedom, and shows that the Saudi authorities are going from bad to worse. Instead of reforming and opening up to diverse and pluralistic journalism, Saudi Arabia is plunging further down the dead-end street of repression and isolation.”
This latest wave of arrests brings the total number of imprisoned journalists and bloggers to at least 39. The most recent previous wave of arrests was in April when six journalists and writers were detained: Nayef Al-Handas, Yazid Al-Faifi, Abdullah Al-Duhailan, Thumar Al-Marzouqi, Mohammed Al-Sadiq and Bader Al-Ibrahim. None of them has so far been formally charged.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 172nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.