Saudi Journalist Banned from Leaving the Country

Saudi journalist Iman al-Qahtani said Friday that she has been banned from leaving the country and summoned for questioning. Al-Qahtani broke a Twitter silence that lasted more than 3 months to make the announcement.

“I have been summoned and banned from travel,” she tweeted early on Friday. “I tried to leave from Dammam airport to Istanbul and I was stopped and told I’m banned. Waiting at the airport’s passport office.”

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) said last April that al-Qahtani was forced to stop tweeting “due to harassment by members of the security forces as a result of her human rights activities.” Al-Qahtani provided extensive coverage on Twitter of the trial of prominent Saudi activists Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani (no relation) and Abdullah al-Hamed who were sentenced by a Saudi court to lengthy jail sentences in March.

“It is a shame that al-Qahtani had to forcefully shut down her Twitter account and resort to self-censorship,” said Doha Centre for Media Freedom in a statement released on April 16, adding that it was concerned about her safety. “If journalists feel vulnerable, they won’t be able to function properly and press freedom will suffer.”

Paris-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders ranked Saudi Arabia 163 out of 179 countries on its latest World Press Freedom Index.