Two journalists were outed by the Saudi government in retaliation for helping foreign journalists talk to dissidents.
The men, 35 and 46, who have requested anonymity, are being held in separate facilities in Australia, one in a detention center and the other is in a hospital for treatment for tuberculosis. The Australian government has not said why they are being held in a center, and Reporters without Borders said that their treatment in Australia was “shameful.”
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What they were escaping in Saudi Arabia was even more harrowing. Homosexuality is illegal in the country and can be punished with death.
The older journalist told Reuters that he has worked for CNN, the BBC, and the Saudi media ministry. When he was working for the ministry in May 2018, he helped two Canadian journalists with the CBC get visas and arrange interviews.
The CBC journalists talked to dissidents while they were in Saudi Arabia, and the dissidents were later arrested.
The older journalist said that in September 2018, he was visited by the Presidency of State Security, which deals with counterterrorism and domestic intelligence. They also asked him about his relationship with the younger journalist.
He said that they told him to stop working with foreign journalists and threatened to reveal his “secret.” He believes that they started monitoring his calls and following him.
The older journalist said that someone informed the younger journalist’s family about their relationship in September 2019. He suspects it was state security.
He said that the family threatened to go to police, so they both fled the country.
They went to Australia on tourist visas. At the airport when they arrived, customs authorities asked them if they planned to apply for asylum, and they were taken to a detention center when they said yes.
Reporters without Borders’s Asia-Pacific director Daniel Bastard said they have reason to be afraid.
“We obviously don’t want other Saudi journalists to be treated like Jamal Khashoggi,” he said.
Khashoggi was a journalist and dissident from Saudi Arabia who, in 2018, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for paperwork and never left. News reports said that he was killed and dismembered inside, but the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia denies government involvement.
Saudi officials also refused to comment on the two journalists in Australia.