Culture and information ministry spokesman Abdul Rahman al-Hazza announced today that King Abdallah has issued a royal decree quashing the sentence of 60 lashes that a court in Jeddah passed last week on journalist Rozanna al-Yami. Responsibility for the Yami case has at the same time been transferred from the courts to the culture and information ministry.
Many journalists, and a royal princess, voiced relief and support for Yami following the announcement.
Yami told journalists: “Even if I accepted the court’s verdict, I felt it was unjust. The sentence insulted not only me but all Saudi journalists. The royal pardon is the most important of the responses to the insults I received. After society’s condemnation, I can raise my head. My greatest concern is now the death threats I received by SMS and email.”
Yami, who has worked by some of the leading Saudi news media such as Rotana and Al-Madina, added that she regarded the case as closed and intended to continue working as a journalist.
25 October 2009 - Woman journalist to get 60 lashes for link to TV programme about sex
Reporters Without Borders condemns the sentence of 60 lashes passed by a judge in the western city of Jeddah on 24 October on journalist Rozanna al-Yami because she worked for the Lebanese Broadcast Corporation (LBC), a satellite TV station that shocked conservative Saudis last July by broadcasting an interview with a Saudi man talking openly about his sex life.
The judge dismissed allegations that Yami had directly worked on the offending programme but nonetheless imposed the sentence on the grounds that she was an LBC employee.
“Why the 60 lashes although the judge dropped the charges against Yami?” Reporters Without Borders said. “This sentence is utterly unacceptable and archaic, and seems designed more to humiliate a woman than to render justice. Although the case directly concerned her work, she was not tried under the legislation that nowadays governs the media in Saudi Arabia.”
Yami told Agence France-Presse: “It is a punishment for all journalists through me.” She added that would not appeal because she feared she could end up receiving an even harsher sentence.
It seems the judge punished Yami simply because of her association with the Beirut-based LBC, whose Riyadh and Jeddah bureaux were closed on 9 August on the orders of the culture and information ministry as a result of the previous month’s controversial programme in LBC’s “Red Line” series, in which a Saudi man talked explicitly about his sex life since the age of 14.
A criminal court sentenced the man on 7 October to five years in prison and a thousand lashes for immoral behaviour under Islamic law.
Saudi Arabia was ranked 163rd out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.