A television presenter in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 12 years in jail on Feb. 5 for critical comments about the Saudi government. Wajdi al-Ghazzawi, the host of Wajd TV satellite channel, was convicted of “disobeying the ruler,” according to Middle East Online, a London-based news website.
The court accused al-Ghazzawi of inciting sedition and hurting the kingdom’s reputation on his program “Fadfadah.” During the show, he accused the government of corruption, said it had reintroduced a policy of Slavery and claimed that Saudi Arabia created al-Qaeda, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Al-Ghazzawi owns the religious satellite broadcaster Al-Fajr media group.
Five years of his sentence were for violations of an article of the country’s cybercrime laws, which ban producing material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers.
"Saudi authorities are not only imposing an extremely harsh punishment on Wajdi al-Ghazzawi for airing his opinion on TV, but are warning all the journalists in the country that criticism will not be tolerated," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We call for the journalist's conviction to be reversed on appeal.”
Al-Ghazzawi was also banned from hosting television for life and unable to leave the country for 20 years.