RIYADH // A young Saudi woman who worked for a Lebanese satellite television channel was yesterday sentenced to 60 lashes after a court found she helped prepare a programme in which a Saudi man talked openly of his sexual exploits. Rozanna al Yami, who is in her 20s, was also barred from travelling outside Saudi Arabia for two years, according to the lawyer Suliman al Jumaie. He added that she began crying loudly when the verdict was announced, but fears that appealing would only bring her a harsher sentence.
"She's the first journalist in Saudi who faces this problem," Mr al Jumaie said in a phone interview. If the verdict stands, he added, "it will be a big problem for any journalist" because it means that media workers can be taken to criminal courts. "Any journalist will be afraid in his work." The court also found that al Yami, a part-time worker in the Jeddah offices of Beirut-based Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), had promoted the show on the internet to attract viewers. This is usually part of the job for TV network employees.
Mr al Jumaie does not represent al Yami, but has an interest in her case because he is the attorney for Mazen Abdul Jawad, 32, who spoke of his sexual life on the LBC programme, Bold Red Line. Earlier this month, Abdul Jawad was sentenced to five years in jail, 1,000 lashes, and a five-year ban on travel outside the kingdom. The court found that he had acted immorally and encouraged vice by speaking frankly about his sex life.
Abdul Jawad is appealing, but meanwhile remains in prison. Mr al Jumaie contends that the Jeddah criminal court does not have jurisdiction in these cases, which, he said, should be heard instead by the ministry of information media court. He added that he has a meeting today with ministry officials to discuss this matter. Mr al Jumaie said he received yesterday a copy of the 31-page verdict against Abdul Jawad. In it, the judges wrote that if the media court hears his client's case and holds LBC responsible for the offending programme, then their verdict against Abdul Jawad will be considered null and void, Mr al Jumaie said.
Soon after Abdul Jawad's interview aired, the Saudi government shut down LBC's offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. firstname.lastname@example.org