“In Saudi Arabia, there is no guarantee that you won’t be arrested because of your frankness and speaking your mind on your blog.” posted Fouad al-Farhan on his blog. He was correct.
He has been detained by Saudi authorities for over 24 days.
There is no power, we bloggers hold over states or royals. There is only the power of disseminating information freely and widely and, in the interest only, of truth. Here are some of the posts that reportedly got him in trouble – specifically his call to free Saud al-Hashmi.
CM stands with many others who call upon the Kingdom to free Fouad. Human rights, social justice and the freedoms of conscience and speech are solutions, and governments–here or abroad–viewing them as problems must be resisted by whatever peaceable means present themselves. Internet commentators can do little, it’s true. But one thing we can do is bring attention to bald injustices. Fouad’s detention is the detention of everyone who speaks his or her mind, and we intend to do what we can to point and yell until someone gets embarrassed and sends our fellow home to his family. Pester His Excellency, the ambassador. Send letters. Post and link. The Kingdom’s operatives should be ashamed to show their faces without tape over their mouths so long as Fouad is detained. Lest you think such missives don’t help, you’d be wrong. Lest you think such missives don’t help, you’d be wrong.
You can follow the case, and show your support, on this website maintained by family and friends.
PS. I am shocked that EFF is not a signatory nor is there any mention of Fouad on their site. What gives?
January 2, 2008
His Royal Highness King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
c/o His Excellency Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
Via facsimile: 202-944-3113
Your Royal Highness:
The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to protest the continued detention of Fouad Ahmed al-Farhan, a leading Saudi blogger who has been held without charge since early December 2007.
We believe al-Farhan is being held for comments published on his Web site, Alfarhan.org. On December 10, Saudi security agents detained al-Farhan at the Jeddah office of the IT company he owns. Security agents later visited his home and confiscated his laptop.
This week, nearly a month after al-Farhan’s detention, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry at last acknowledged that he has been detained, but would not give the reason for his incarceration. Ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour al-Turki was quoted by several newspapers as saying that al-Farhan was being questioned “about violating non-security regulations” but would not elaborate. Calls from CPJ to the Saudi Embassy in Washington were not returned.
In an e-mail sent to friends prior to his arrest, al-Farhan explained that he had received a phone call from the Saudi Interior Ministry instructing him to prepare himself “to be picked up in the coming two weeks” for questioning by a high-ranking official. He also stated in the e-mail that he believed he was being summoned “because I wrote about the political prisoners here in Saudi Arabia and they think I’m running an online campaign promoting their issue.” In one of his last posts before his detention, al-Farhan sharply criticized 10 influential Saudi business, religious, and media figures.
Your Royal Highness, we find it deplorable that Saudi authorities would continue to hold our colleague in near secrecy after nearly a month. Arbitrarily detaining a writer and holding him for weeks without saying why violates the most basic norms for free expression and serves as a chilling reminder to those seeking to express their opinions. It also runs counter to official Saudi statements in support of reform and a more open press.
During meetings with CPJ representatives in Riyadh in 2006, Saudi officials affirmed the country’s commitment to gradual reforms and praised the recent loosening of restrictions on the local press. We urge you to use all your influence to ensure that our colleague Fouad al-Farhan is released at once.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter and we look forward to your reply.
His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Minister of Defense
His Royal Highness Prince Nayef Bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud, Minister of Interior
The Honorable Ford M. Fraker, U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Louise Arbour, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
American Society of Newspaper Editors
Article 19 (United Kingdom)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Human Rights Watch
Index on Censorship
International Center for Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Institute
The Newspaper Guild
The North American Broadcasters Association
Overseas Press Club
Reporters Sans Frontières
The Society of Professional Journalists
World Association of Newspapers
World Press Freedom Committee
[co-written with sepoy]