Excellent news. Faiza Saleh Ambah reports for the Washington Post that Fouad al-Farhan, one of Saudi Arabia’s most popular bloggers, has been released.
When I recently visited Saudi Arabia, Fouad’s name came up in many of our meetings — as I and several of my colleagues on the trip were bloggers or involved in new media and interested in the state of Saudi blogging.
What was interesting is whether it was senior level academics or program directors at the impressive King Saud University or members of the Shura Council or even government ministry officials, all of them knew of Fouad al-Farhan’s incarceration and none of them could say exactly why he was being held. The closest anyone came to speculating on charges against him was to suggest that he may have put online personal details of one of the security officials he was writing about.
And these senior officials and academics added that blogs were becoming the new media in Saudi Arabia and were eroding the cartel of information control that the state-managed media held. And they seemed happy about it — and said that even King Abdullah knew that this liberalization of political discourse was coming and embraced it.
The intimidation and jailing of a blogger is not a sign of a healthy civil society — but his release is a very positive move. This was the right move for the Saudi kingdom to take. Congrats to Fouad al-Farhan and his many readers.
— Steve Clemons