RSF and HRW ask United Arab Emirates to free Jordanian journalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Human Rights Watch have called on the United Arab Emirates to release Tayseer al-Najjar, a Jordanian journalist who completed a three-year prison sentence on 13 December but has not been freed because he is unable to pay the heavy fine that accompanied the jail term.
Tayseer Al-Najjar, who worked for the Emirati newspaper Dar, was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of more than 115,000 euros under article 29 of the UAE’s cyber-crime law for allegedly sullying the “prestige and reputation” of the state in Facebook posts. According to the law, he must spend another six months in prison if he cannot pay the fine.
RSF and HRW have sent a joint letter to the UAE’s foreign minister asking the authorities to annul the fine so that Al-Najjar can be released.
Al-Najjar had been working in the UAE since April 2015 when was arrested as he was about to leave the country in December 2015. Thereafter, his defence rights were flouted: his family was not told where he was being held and he was not allowed access to a lawyer for more than a year.
At least three professional and non-professional journalists are currently detained in connection with the provision of news and information in the UAE, which is ranked 128th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
The joint letter can be read in the original Arabic below.