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Saudi journalists detained in Australia after seeking asylum

PEN Sydney expresses support for two Saudi journalists administratively detained in Australia.

The journalists (not named to protect their identities) are domestic partners who have been identified by Reporters Without Borders as journalists who fled Saudi Arabia and arrived in Australia in search of asylum.

When the two journalists arrived at Sydney airport, they were both handcuffed and placed in immigration detention, despite having tourist visas obtained legally with legal passports in their own names. PEN Sydney has spoken with the men about their conditions of detention and it is believed that they are at risk of physical and sexual assault and are concerned other Saudi detainees will learn of their case and target them.

PEN Sydney  is also concerned about the possibility of their return to Saudi Arabia.

According to Reporters Without Borders:

“Saudi Arabia permits no independent media and no collaboration with foreign media. Authorities keep Saudi journalists under close surveillance—even when they are abroad, as Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul in October 2018 illustrated. Despite his talk of reform, Mohammad bin Salman has intensified the repression since his appointment as crown prince in June 2017. The number of journalists and citizen-journalists in detention has tripled since the start of 2017. Most are being held arbitrarily and are likely subjected to torture, which is almost systematic for prisoners of conscience. Journalists who voice criticism or analyse political problems are liable to be fired or detained under criminal code provisions or under the terrorism or cybercrime laws on charges of blasphemy, “insulting religion,” “inciting chaos,” “jeopardizing national unity,” or "harming the image and reputation of the king and the state.”

PEN Sydney does not believe it possible for these two men to return safely to Saudi Arabia nor can their safety be guaranteed in immigration detention.

As such, PEN Sydney calls on the Australian government to release them from immigration detention and allow them to continue their applications for refugee protection while living safely in the Australian community.

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