The United States Broadcasting Board of Governors strongly condemns the decision by the Saudi Arabian judicial system to sentence Hadi al-Mutif to five additional years in prison for comments he made on Alhurra television in 2007. Al-Mutif commented on Alhurra’s program Eye on Democracy that the Saudi judicial system discriminates against Shiite and Ismaili Muslims.
“We fought the battle for the right to criticize our government back in 1776,” said D. Jeffrey Hirschberg of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees all U.S. international civilian broadcasting including Alhurra Television. “It is disturbing that a person will be so severely punished just for voicing his opinion.”
Using a smuggled cell phone, al Mutif videotaped his comments from his prison cell that were later played on the Alhurra’s Arabic-language satellite television program.
Reuters reported that al-Mutif has been on death row in Saudi Arabia for 16 years and was sentenced this week to another five years in jail for criticizing the Saudi justice system on Alhurra.
Saudi Arabia’s decision is in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, which states, “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency that provides accurate, objective, and balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas. BBG broadcasting organizations include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). BBG broadcasts reach over 175 million people worldwide on a weekly basis.