Saleh Al-Shehi, a columnist for Arabic-language daily Al-Watan, received five years in prison after he ‘insulted the royal court’ in comments he made on TV. The outspoken journalist was arrested last month.
He reportedly criticized the court’s anti-corruption purge launched in November against several princes, senior officials and business tycoons in a clampdown directed by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman.
Most detainees have been released after they signed monetary deals with authorities in exchange for their freedom.
Al-Shehi reportedly slammed the royal court for being “one of the institutions that reinforced corruption” in the country, citing examples such as granting plots of land to citizens based on personal connections.
“If we want to end financial corruption then we must first shutter the windows for administrative corruption,” he was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.
For the commentator who has nearly 1.2 million followers on Twitters, “there are in the Royal Court many windows from which people can enter.”
New York-headquartered Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned Al-Shehi’s arrest and demanded that Saudi authorities cancel the ruling.
“The emerging leadership’s promises of openness and reform in Saudi Arabia seem to end where critical reporting and independent journalism begin,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour.
“Saudi authorities should free Saleh Al-Shehi immediately and stop going after journalists who report inconvenient news.”
The free media watchdog notes that seven journalists have been held in Saudi Arabia since December 1, 2017.