October 20, 2011
Saudi Arabia has arrested three young men for posting online a video on poverty in the oil-rich country, rights activists have reported.
The three identified as Firas Baqna, Khalid al-Rasheed and Hussam al-Darwish were arrested a few days ago in al-Sahaba district, north of capital, after opposition television, al-Islah, aired part of their YouTube series titled “Malub Aleina” (“We are being cheated”), AFP reported.
The UK-based al-Islah channel is believed to belong to the Movement for Islamic Reform in Saudi Arabia which is banned in the Kingdom.
In the part aired by al-Islah, poverty in al-Jaradeya, a poor Riyadh neighborhood, is shown and it features an interview with a mosque imam saying that vice and drugs were becoming popular in the region due to poverty.
The video also points to the wealth of 11 Saudi billionaires that are among the world’s richest men, while nearly 30 percent of Saudis suffer from poverty in a country that is the holder of 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves.
Saudi authorities have accused the three activists of “turning public opinion against the public order of the country.”
One Saudi activist said authorities suspected the three men “were receiving finance from al-Islah channel and were taken into custody for interrogation.”
“The aim of the series is to draw attention to social problems, nothing more,” the activist added.
The Cairo-based rights group, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, has criticized Riyadh for suppressing activists, adding that their arrests were politically motivated.
“Saudi authorities have to implement genuine political reform, instead of stalking and harassing the activists and (neglecting) laws and fundamental freedoms,” the rights group said.
It has also accused the Saudi government of restricting freedom of expression as a means to “intimidate pro-democracy citizens”. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information also condemned the silence of the Arab and international community on rights violations in the Kingdom.
According to the Democracy Index for 2010 published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Saudi Arabia is the least democratic country in the Middle East and ranks 160th out of 167 countries worldwide.
This article was posted: Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 3:15 am