Saudi female journalist to be flogged over TV show
Riyadh -- A Saudi female journalist said Saturday that a court has ordered her to receive 60 lashes for working at a television network that aired the sexual confessions of a man.
Rozana al-Yami said a judge in the Red Sea coastal town of Jeddah dropped all charges that she had been directly involved with the episode of a programme on LBC, a Saudi-owned Lebanese network, in July.
However, Yami said the judge sentenced her to 60 lashes for having been a part-time employee for LBC’s Saudi operations. The judge mentioned LBC had lacked the appropriate operating licence, she said without elaborating.
"It’s a punishment for all journalists through me," Yami told AFP by telephone.
"They just said the channel was illegal. But the Saudi minister of information himself appeared on LBC a couple of weeks ago," she said.
Saudi judges base their rulings on strict Islamic sharia law, but it was not immediately clear how the judge in this case reached the verdict.
Yami, 22, until recently a reporter for the Arabic women’s magazine Roaa, said she did not know when her sentence would be carried out. She does not plan an appeal, saying she feared she could end up with a harsher sentence.
Her sentencing comes after Saudi airline sales clerk Mazen Abdul Jawad was convicted of offensive behaviour and sentenced to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes on October 7 for his appearance on the LBC show Bold Red Line, in which he talked about picking up girls and having sex with them.
Three friends who appeared on the show with him were given two-year terms and 300 lashes each, while a cameraman who helped film the episode was sentenced to two months in jail.
Abdul Jawad’s lawyer Sulaiman al-Jimaie expressed shock at Yami’s sentence because she had nothing to do with him or the episode of the programme he appeared in.
Jimaie said the court produced evidence that Yami had helped solicit people to appear on other episodes of Bold Red Line, a hit talk show for LBC hosted by TV star Malik Maktebi.
Jimaie was not in the court to hear the judge’s final ruling, but said it is simply because of Yami connection to the show, which features discussion about subjects often taboo in conservative Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia that are in LBC’s broad satellite footprint.
"For me it’s about the same programme," he said of her conviction. "She made an announcement for this programme, an email to find others to take part. It’s an incredible decision," he added, comparing it to the recent trials in Sudan of female journalists for wearing "indecent" trousers.
He called it an attack on journalism generally, and questioned why the case was heard in a criminal court rather than a special media tribunal linked to the information ministry.
"They made this decision because she is a journalist," he told AFP. "It will be difficult for any journalist to work in the future after this."
The programme has also drawn criticism against LBC and its flamboyant, progressive owner, Saudi multi-billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal from conservative Saudi clerics.
Alwaleed has in recent years pushed hard against Saudi rules banning cinemas and music in public places through his Rotana and LBC media groups.
However, according to media reports Saturday, LBC has decided to stop broadcasting Bold Red Line outside of Lebanon.