Saudi female journalist questioned over controversial sex stories on Lebanese TV

Claudia Santagada - TCS Reporter 29 October 2009

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia decided last Monday that the Saudi female journalist Rozanna al-Yami should not face the 60 lashes to which she had been sentenced by a court in Jeddah two days earlier. Al-Yami had been condemned for her involvement in the production of an episode of “The Broad Red Line”, broadcasted in July by the Lebanese satellite channel LBC, in which a Saudi man, Mazen Abdul Jawad, went public about his sexual experiences.

BBC Arabic reports that Rozanna al-Yami had previously expressed her belief that the judge had dropped the charges against her but had decided nonetheless to carry out the punishment as a form of deterrence.

This is the second time in two years in which King Abdullah has lifted a sentence of flogging after it has become the centre of worldwide media attention. In 2007 he pardoned a Saudi woman who had been sentenced to flogging for being alone in a car with a male friend.

The LBC show “The Broad Red Line” aims to discuss social issues. However, the show’s treatment of some taboos has been highly controversial. The BBC reports that there were over 200 requests made by Saudi viewers demanding a punishment for Mazen Abdul Jawad. The 32 year old divorcee was filmed in his house in Saudi Arabia speaking about his sexual experiences. He mentioned his first sexual experience with his neighbour at the age of 14, displayed some sex toys as well as a book entitled “101 Questions on Sex”, and finally spoke about his way of meeting Saudi women through the use of Bluetooth. Despite his apologies and his claim that he had been tricked by LBC, he was sentenced by a judge in Jeddah to one thousand lashes and five years in prison. On completion of his prison term, he faces a five-year travel ban, during which he will not be allowed to leave Saudi Arabia. Three other men who appeared on the show were also sentenced, but it is not clear whether the punishment consists of two years imprisonment, three hundred lashes, or both.

The online newspaper states that the trial of another female journalist who should have appeared in the court was postponed due to her pregnancy.

After the case, LBC studios in Saudi Arabia has been closed down, despite the fact that the Saudi millionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is one of LBC’s main shareholders.

Claudia Santagada – TCS Reporter