His Majesty King Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud
Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
23 February 2012
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the imprisonment of journalist and blogger Hamza Kashgari.
Mr Kashgari, a former contributor to the daily paper Al-Bilad, fled Saudi Arabia on 6 February seeking political asylum after making tweets about the Prophet Mohammed that were deemed blasphemous. He was arrested while in transit in Malaysia and deported back to Saudi Arabia on 12 February, where he is likely to face trial and possibly the death penalty on charges of blasphemy and apostasy.
Mr Kashgari’s tweets caused an immediate scandal, with several prominent clerics and some members of the public calling for the death sentence, and the Information Minister banning him from writing for any Saudi publication. Mr Kashgari reportedly tweeted: "I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you." Another tweet said that he would not pray for the Prophet Mohammed but would greet him "as a friend". Mr Kashgari issued an apology shortly after tweeting his “conversation” with the Prophet Mohammed but this failed to placate his critics.
The imprisonment of Mr Kashgari for expressing his views about the Prophet Mohammed is a clear violation of numerous international conventions, including Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and Article 19, which provides for the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Furthermore, his prosecution sends a clear message that questioning the orthodoxy of the state or raising reformist issues will not be tolerated.
We respectfully call on you to take all necessary steps to ensure that Mr Kashgari is immediately released from jail and that all charges against him are dropped. We urge you to ensure that in future your country fully respects internationally recognised rights to free expression and freedom of religious belief.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum
WAN-IFRA is the global organisation for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organisation groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.
Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933, Airport Road
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Minister of Culture and Information
Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Muhiyuddin Khoja
Ministry of Culture and Information
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia