Arab Media Forum urged to adopt case of UAE detainee Tayseer al-Najjar
The wife of Tayseer al Najjar, a Jordanian journalist currently imprisoned in the UAE for Facebook comments, issued an appeal last week to organisers of the Arab Media Forum to intervene in her husband’s case.
The 17th edition of the annual Arab Media Forum, held in Dubai earlier this week, bought together over 2,500 prominent regional and international media figures to discuss media trends across the Middle East.
Sessions at the event included the impact of regional instabilities on the Arab media and the subsequent challenges faced by journalists across the region in reporting the news ethically and responsibly.
It was in this context that al-Najjar’s wife Majeda Hourani called on the event organisers, the Dubai Press Club, to raise the case of her husband, who is currently serving a three-year sentence in the UAE for social media comments.
A journalist of 15 years, Tayseer al-Najjar moved to the UAE to begin working as a cultural reporter for the state-owned al-dar newspaper in April 2015.
In March of last year, Abu Dhabi courts sentenced him to three years in prison and a fine of 500,000 UAE Dh ($136,000) for a series of Facebook comments he made in 2014 which allegedly declared support for Hamas and criticised both the UAE and President Sisi of Egypt. Prior to his conviction, al-Najjar was held for over a year without charge or access to a lawyer.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have since issued calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Furthermore, late last year the Jordanian government requested Emirati authorities transfer al-Najjar back to his home country to serve out the remainder of his sentence. This intervention came off the back of reports stating that al-Najjar’s health had deteriorated significantly since his detention in UAE's al-Whathba prison.
Tayseer al-Najjar was convicted solely on the basis of exercising his basic right to freedom of speech. Therefore, we reiterate our calls for his immediate and unconditional release. Moreover, it should be the duty of all journalists and media professionals to join this call. Al-Najjar’s continued detention contravenes the core values of a free and independent press and stands as direct threat to journalists throughout the region. In this regard, it is imperative that the Arab Media Forum work to raise al-Najjar’s case as soon as possible.
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