Freedom of Expression in Saudi Arabia

Freedom of expression is the right to share your thoughts and opinions, as well as the right to receive information from any source you choose. This means that you can criticize anyone, whether that’s the president, a neighbor, or anyone you disagree with. You can watch any TV show, read any books and newspapers, and access any websites you want.

​However, while most governments have the power to limit freedom of expression, non-democracies often abuse this power. One way they do so is by imprisoning people who speak out against the government; another way to limit freedom of expression is by controlling the media. They do this by blocking websites, shutting down news outlets and social media sites, and harassing journalists and activists.

​Saudi Arabia is ruled by a king who can create whatever laws he wants at any time. The royal family has complete control over most media outlets, and Saudi citizens are often imprisoned for criticizing the king, religion, or politics. HRF’s Free Speech Unlimited project lists Saudi Arabia among the worst offenders when it comes to prohibiting free speech.

Waleed Abulkhair, a Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer, was imprisoned for signing a petition calling for democracy, and for criticizing the Saudi Arabian government on news outlets and on Twitter. Now you have the chance to take action on Waleed’s behalf.

About Waleed

​Waleed started his career as a human rights lawyer in 2007, speaking up for democratic principles, promoting accountability, and defending victims of human rights abuses. On April 15, 2014, the Saudi regime decided to silence Waleed. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Guards have deprived Waleed of sleep, placed him in solitary confinement, and denied him access to necessary medical treatment. His daughter, born while Waleed was in prison, may grow up without her father.

Imagine if you weren’t allowed to express your opinions. Imagine being sent to jail for a tweet or Facebook post. Imagine not being able to see your family for 15 years because the government didn’t like what you had to say. ​

You have the opportunity to do what Waleed couldn’t do freely: You can sign this petition for his release.

++++By signing and sharing this petition, you will:

  • Raise awareness about Waleed Abulkhair’s case
  • Call on King Salman to release Waleed Abulkhair
  • Pressure Saudi Arabia to uphold human rights and freedom

On April 17, 2017, HRF will hand deliver this petition to the U.N. Permanent Mission of Saudi Arabia to mark the three-year anniversary of Waleed’s imprisonment.

​We need to collect as many signatures as possible to have the greatest impact, so after you sign the petition please share it with your friends. Raise your voice for Waleed and for others who have been silenced.

Additional resources

​Interested in learning more about Waleed Abulkhair? Check out HRF’s in-depth legal report and read about his case in thisWashington Post op-ed.