Despite deeply flawed trials, pro-government media sources increase fears surrounding Saudi’s plan to execute activists

ESOHR would like to bring urgent attention to the deliberate and strategic media campaign to publish news on the imminent mass execution of over 50 individuals in Saudi Arabia.

Since the 20th November several Saudi sources close to the government published news of a mass execution. Initial articles were published by pro-government mediaOkaz, Al-Riyadh, Al-Jazeera (some have since been deleted). As well as these sources, there have also been more unofficial channels used to spread the news in the form of rumors, using twitter accounts thatare known as a close source to the government and give accurate news, with the purpose of measuring the publics reaction to the planned executions.

The news shows a staged or step-by-step approach to reporting the news, as the early reports from the pro-government newspapers are vague with only basic details mentioning that some of those to be executed come from the Al-Awamia region, whilst the latest more unofficial reports are highly detailed and specifically mention that 7 are from Qatif, thus such reports are deeply concerning and cannot be ignored.

Based on our monitoring, this carefully staged management of this mass execution news suggest it is being deliberately orchestrated, whilst the unofficial reports circulating contain in-depth detail. It is a means to gauge public reactionand measure the consequences for the forthcoming executions, as the cases of the 7 Qatifi activists are highly sensitive and have attracted international condemnation.

In addition, this mass execution represents a plan that attempts to mix up the cases files of peaceful activists from Qatif/Awamia and potential terrorists who have been linked to violent terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. Such a strategy will reduce the likelihood of objections from the Saudi public, under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Furthermore, we would say that the news of a potential pardon for Raif Badawi (which we indeed hope to be true) seems to be well timed, considering that they intend to execute peaceful activists simultaneously in the coming days.

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