CNN is reporting that jailed Saudi blogger Fuad al-Farhan may be released from detention soon, according to Ministry of the Interior sources. A great deal of international attention has been focused on al-Farhan’s issue, with support coming in from other Saudi and Arab bloggers. The US State Department even noted it in yesterday’s daily press briefing [Scroll down the linked page].
CNN) — A Saudi blogger arrested in December could be freed soon, a spokesman for the kingdom’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
No details about any charges or a release date have been announced. However, a friend and fellow Saudi blogger told CNN that Fouad al-Farhan was arrested because he wrote about political issues.
Al-Farhan, operator of the Web site alfarhan.org, was arrested December 10. In an e-mail posted on the site since his arrest, he told friends that he faced arrest for his support of 10 reform advocates the Saudi government accuses of supporting terrorism.
The 32-year-old blogger is one of the few Saudi Web commentators who uses his own name, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists. He was was arrested at his Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, office by government agents who also seized his laptop from his home, the organization said in a statement issued in late December.
[Thanks to 'Saudi in the US' for drawing my attention to this piece, as well as his comment that while international media coverage may not have forced this decision, it doesn't hurt.]
Perhaps even more importantly, Saudi media is addressing the case as well. This piece from Arab News discusses the importance of blogs to freedom of expression and freedom to think. It notes that when governments do not publicly talk about matters, the public will move to fill in the void, rightly or wrongly. What’s most startling about this piece is that it is talking about a Saudi jailed by Saudi authorities for political thought. Up until this piece, Saudi media was deaf and dumb when it came to the question of political prisoners. This is a signal event.
How Free Is the Blogosphere?
Abeer Mishkhas, firstname.lastname@example.org
When we congratulate ourselves on the expanding role of the media in Saudi Arabia, we do this with a sense of the different atmosphere surrounding us; there are still social problems, which we journalists cannot write about and there are still attitudes, which are anything but tolerant.
Tolerance is of course viewed subjectively here, and we know from experience that tolerance can enable us to say many things that have been buried in our hearts and minds for ages.
And yet despite our good intentions, we still use the brakes to stop ourselves from going in too deeply; and we do that either consciously or not.
The news of the arrest in Jeddah on Dec. 10 of Saudi blogger Fouad Farhan will be seen by many as a setback at a time when international news agencies had begun quoting our newspapers on some of our most important and sensitive issues.