Like many teens, the 19-year-old Saudi blogger ‘Abu Sin’ (‘the toothless one’) enjoys spending his time online connecting to people throughout the world. Earlier this year, the young teen whose real name had not been revealed by authorities, connected with American teen blogger Christina Crockett. Despite the language barrier, the two had numerous exchanges, including one video where Abu Sin declared his love to Christina.
Their exchanges were first broadcasted on YouNow, receiving 6.5 million views, before being posted on YouTube. However, on the 25th of September, Abu Sin was taken into custody, with video purporting to show the incident being broadcast live.
When asked to comment, Riyadh police spokesperson Col Fawaz Al Mayman stated that there had been many calls for his arrest, and that Abu Sin’s videos were “enticing” and had “became famous and received negative attention”. Lieutenant Fawaz al-Miman, also of the Riyadh police, added that “Abu Sin was jailed for violating decency and religious values”.
Abu Sin was held in custody for over a week, before being released on bail on the 6th of October. He is still facing charges for breaching the sixth article of the information security law, the penalty for which is up to five years in prison, or a fine of up to SR3 million.
On the Freedom House’s Freedom of the Net report for the year 2015, Saudi Arabia is marked as ‘Not Free’. Social media apps are being blocked, political and social content is being censored and bloggers are being arrested. The state’s press freedom is also marked as not free.
The Freedom House’s report quotes another troubling case of online censorship, demonstrating the Saudi crackdown on freedom of expression:
“The Saudi television channel Rotana ordered Google to take down a video of the satirical YouTube show “Fitnah” on copyright grounds, after the show had used footage from Rotana to criticize its owner, Prince Waleed bin Talal. The video was later restored by YouTube”
Saudi Arabia is still holding the blogger Raif Badawi behind bars for establishing an online platform for public discourse. Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for supporting freedom of expression in the state.