RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The Saudi king has waived a 60 lashes punishment for a female journalist charged with involvement in a TV show in which a Saudi man publicly talked about sex, a government official said Monday.
King Abdullah's decision followed intense media attention sparked by Saturday's sentencing of journalist Rozanna al-Yami, who was ordered flogged by a judge in the western city of Jiddah.
Al-Yami had been charged with involvement in the preparation of a sex talk show and advertising the segment on the Internet.
Public talk about sex is taboo in this ultraconservative country, where the sexes are segregated.
Al-Yami — believed to be the first Saudi woman journalist to get a flogging punishment — said Saturday that although the charges against her were dropped, the judge sentenced her "as a deterrence."
On Monday, Information Ministry spokesman Abdul-Rahman al-Hazza told The Associated Press that the king waived the sentence and ordered al-Yami's case and that of another journalist — a pregnant woman also accused of involvement in the program — be referred to an Information Ministry committee.
Al-Yami, 22, worked as a coordinator for the program but has denied involvement in the sex talk episode.
During a hearing Monday also connected to the sex show, the judge told the second female journalist, Iman Rajab, that her case was also being referred to the Information Ministry committee.
The committee, which usually has a Justice Ministry representative but no judges sitting on it, deals with media-related violations, al-Hazza said.
'Bold Red Line'
The case started in July, when the Lebanese LBC satellite channel aired the sex talk episode as part of its program entitled "Bold Red Line."
In the episode, a divorced Saudi father of four who works for the national airline, Mazen Abdul-Jawad, appears to describe an active sex life and shows sex toys that were blurred by the station in the footage shown on TV.
The government moved swiftly in the wake of the case, shutting down LBC's two offices in the kingdom and arresting Abdul-Jawad.
The same judge at the Jiddah court also sentenced Abdul-Jawad earlier this month to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes.
The man's lawyer, Sulaiman al-Jumeii, maintains his client was duped by the TV station and was unaware in many cases he was being recorded.
Three other men who appeared on the show were also convicted of discussing sex publicly and sentenced to two years imprisonment and 300 lashes each.
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