Saudi Arabia's Death Sentence for Online Activity Sparks Concern

Ever heard about a person who is executed just because of using social media? Hard to digest right? But what could he possibly have done wrong? In the world of social media, there's a big issue brewing. A man in Saudi Arabia named Mohammed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, who used a platform we'll call "X" (formerly known as Twitter) and YouTube, has been sentenced to death by a Saudi court. This happened because he said things about Saudi Arabia's actions on these websites.

Why Elon Musk's Silence Matters:

The owner of "X," Elon Musk, frequently affirms his belief in free expression. But in this instance, despite Saudi Arabia being a significant investor in his platform, he hasn't said anything about what's happening there. This quiet, which seems to oppose free speech, is perplexing.

What Happened to al-Ghamdi:

According to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Al-Ghamdi, a recently retired teacher, had a small X following with only nine persons following him. What's alarming is that his brother, Saeed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi, thinks that the Saudi government put him to death to punish him for speaking out against it.

Al-Ghamdi received this awful penalty in July after a special Saudi court utilized evidence from his tweets, retweets, and YouTube activities to support its decision. Al-Ghamdi was detained in front of his family in June 2022, according to Human Rights Watch, and if his death sentence isn't commuted, he'll likely be executed.

Saudi Arabia's Bigger Problem:

This isn't the only case like this in Saudi Arabia. In 2022, Saudi Arabia executed 147 people; this year, the number is already 94. One particularly bad day was March 12th, 2022, when Saudi Arabia executed 81 men, the most significant event in years.

Saudi Arabia's most powerful man, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has ambitious intentions to transform Saudi Arabia into a destination for travellers and enterprises similar to the United Arab Emirates. These objectives are referred to as Vision 2030. However, detractors and those concerned with human rights claim that bin Salman dislikes it when people criticize him, particularly on social media.

Another dark cloud looming over Saudi Arabia is the murder of a Saudi journalist named Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, allegedly premeditated by Saudi government operatives. The Saudi crown prince was alleged to have ordered this murder by the US Central Intelligence Agency, although bin Salman insists he did not commit the crime.

A Pattern of Trouble:

The story of al-Ghamdi is just one example of how Saudi Arabia deals with people who speak out. Last year, two women in Saudi Arabia were given long prison sentences for saying things critical of the government on social media. This drew criticism from around the world.

"How can the world believe the country is changing for the better when a citizen might lose their life just for posting on a small online account with fewer than 10 followers?" Lina al-Hathloul, who works for a rights organization called ALQST, sums up the issue nicely.

The Odd Relationship to "X:"

The fact that al-Ghamdi's sentence is related to his actions on "X," a platform run by Elon Musk, makes this situation even more peculiar. Musk has frequently stated his fervent support for free expression. However, he has made no mention of what transpired with al-Ghamdi.

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and his Kingdom Holding Company have been significant investors in "X" for a while. Even after Musk took over the company in 2022, they still own many shares.

Prince bin Salman is related to bin Talal, and this connection raised concerns among two US senators who worried about national security and Saudi financing. Senator Chris Murphy has raised a thought-provoking concern regarding Saudi Arabia's potential manipulation of 'X' to suppress dissenting voices or disseminate misleading information. We must thoroughly investigate this possibility and take appropriate measures to safeguard freedom of speech and the truth.

In the end, what happened to Mohammed bin Nasser al-Ghamdi reminds us of the tough choices social media platforms face regarding free speech and the interests of influential investors. It also highlights human rights and free speech problems in countries like Saudi Arabia and how politics and money can affect justice.

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