Freedom of Expression in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi government appeared to give in to international pressure yesterday after it announced it would delay the next round of 50 lashes for Raif Badawi. Badawi is a blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years imprisonment for insulting Islam. His sentence provoked sharp criticism from the global community. Amnesty International has led a campaign to draw attention to the sentence, and a number of states have condemned it. Yesterday, the Saudi government announced it would “delay” the second round of 50 lashes for medical reasons, and the Saudi Supreme Court announced it would “review” the decision.

Badawi’s case raises a number of important questions, both centering on liberal notions of freedom of expression and more broadly on the effectiveness of public pressure on state behavior. What do you think? Should liberal notions of freedom of expression constrain governmental behavior? Do claims that the decision here is intended to protect religious freedom mitigate concerns over freedom of expression? Why? And do you think that international pressure, such as that brought by Amnesty International, can be effective in changing the behavior of the Saudi government in the longer term? Do states care about international public opinion? Why?

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