Monday, April 28, 2008

You've Got to Watch Out for Top Ten Lists; They Can Get You in Real Trouble

In December of last year, The Washington Post reported on the case of thirty-two-year-old Fouad al-Farhan, who was arrested by Saudi authorities for posting seemingly subversive anti-government material on his blog, which included posts drawing attention to the plight of political prisoners in the country. In "Dissident Saudi Blogger is Arrested," the reporter explains how Farhan's "Top Ten List" (or more accurately "Bottom Ten List") was one of the factors that led to his own detention.

Unlike most of the thousands of men and women who blog in the kingdom, on topics from fashion to corruption, Farhan uses his real name. In a post in December, Farhan listed his 10 least favorite Saudi personalities, including a businessman prince, a prominent cleric, a minister, a mayor and the head of the judiciary.

This week, Farhan was finally released and presumably returned to his family and computer programming business. According to a recent article in The Christian Science Monitor, "Saudi Official: why popular blogger Farhan was jailed," Farhan intends to go back to blogging on his blog, even though he may still face charges.

During his captivity, friends of Farhan's created a blog that advocated for his freedom, Free Fouad. Although it too was eventually blocked to users inside Saudi Arabia, its appeals on behalf of the popular jailed blogger reached a broad audience and showcased pro-Fouad content from around the Arab-speaking world, including this YouTube video of Farhan's daughter, which was posted by a dissident from Tunisia.

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