Saudi authorities have reportedly arrested the former director general of the state-owned Saudi Broadcasting Authority (SBA) as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against rights campaigners and intellectuals widens in the conservative kingdom.
Arabic-language al-Khaleej Online news website, citing a post published by the rights group Prisoners of Conscience, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, reported on Monday that Saudi officials had detained Dawood al-Shiryan.
Shiryan had purportedly gone missing since the beginning of the current month.
According to Prisoners of Conscience, the renowned Saudi journalist was relieved of his position as head of the SBA last September.
In March 2019, the Saudi SBC channel announced the suspension of the “With Dawood” program presented by Shiryan himself only after six episodes were aired.
The program discussed social issues, most notably runaway girls, slums and an episode on foreign women married to Saudis, and vice versa.
Some critics took to Twitter and argued that Shiryan had publicly exposed the ills of the society.
Human rights groups that monitor the kingdom say Saudi Arabia’s long-running drive to muzzle dissent and intellectuals has escalated recently.
Since Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the government has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.
In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was an outspoken critic of Riyadh. Nimr had been arrested in Qatif, Eastern Province, in 2012.
Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, with government forces increasing security measures across the province.