Target: Abdullah al Humaid, King of Saudi Arabia
Goal: Release journalist imprisoned and beaten for promoting free speech
Journalist Raif Badawi recently received his first round of 50 lashes with a whip for creating a website that encouraged open political discourse. Badawi, who founded the Liberal Saudi Network, will endure similar public lashings each Friday for the next 19 weeks, until his sentence of 1,000 lashes is complete. He is also facing a 10-year prison term and a fine of over a quarter million U.S. dollars.
In 2008, the Liberal Saudi Network website began publishing liberal news and analysis in order to counteract the highly conservative nature of Saudi Arabia’s mass media. After the website became a popular spot to discuss alternative political and religious ideals, creator Badawi was placed under surveillance and harassed repeatedly by law enforcement and government officials. During this time, he had his assets frozen and was not allowed to leave the country. The website was shut down in 2012 when Badawi and others were arrested for disrespecting politicians and religious idols. He was found guilty in court of cyber crimes and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013. After a court-ordered retrial, Badawi’s sentence was increased to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashings.
Dozens of other members of the media have reported surveillance, harassment, and criminal charges brought against them for publishing material that the government finds offensive. Some have been tortured, imprisoned, and put to death because of their views.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Saudi Arabia is one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom. The country’s leaders promised to do away with many restrictions on free speech, but in practice, has made no notable progress toward the goal. Sign the petition below to demand that Mr. Badawi’s sentence is overturned and that Saudi Arabia stop unfairly prosecuting journalists based on their viewpoints.
Dear King Abdullah al Humaid,
Journalist Raif Badawi recently received his first round of 50 public whip lashings. He faces 19 more rounds of this torture spread out over 19 weeks, as well as a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of one million Saudi riyals. Badawi is facing this punishment simply for promoting free speech about politics and religion on a liberal website that he created.
While Saudi Arabia has claimed in the past that it would improve press freedoms, Badawi as well as hundreds of other activists are imprisoned simply for expressing alternative points of view. We, the undersigned, demand that Badawi is released and that Saudi Arabia work to prevent similar infringements on freedom of speech in the future.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Anuskafm via Creative Commons