Saudi Arabia: Poverty Video Vloggers Released

Tweeted picture of Firas with his little brothers after getting released

Around two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia arrested three young video bloggers Firas Buqna, Hussam Al-Darwish and Khaled Al-Rasheed for producing an episode of their show Malub Alena about poverty in one of Riyadh's areas. The name of the show can be translated into We Are Being Fooled and this episode was actually their fourth episode after previous shows on youth and police corruption. Before the arrests, the show was having a good number of views but in few days after their arrests, it was viewed for more than 600,000 times.

Here's a copy of the video, with English subtitles, from YouTube:

The show's title also turned into a Twitter hashtag #Mal3ob3lena, where Saudis condemned the arrests of those three young men and also expressed their sorrow against the oppression of free speech in the kingdom. This came hand in hand with the use of another hashtag that has been alive for months #e3teqal (translated to: Arrest) where people post updates and discuss the issue of thousands of Saudi detainees, many of whom arrested for no valid reasons and are being denied the right to fair trials.

Saudi blogger Haneen wrote a post [ar] about what those three young vloggers have done:

السابع عشر من اكتوبر الذي يرتبط بيوم مكافحة الفقر عالمياً هو اليوم! و في هذا اليوم أيضاً يُعتقل و في رواية يُستدعى الشابان السعوديان حسام و فراس بقنه المنتجان لبرنامج (ملعوب علينا) الذي يُبث عن طريق اليوتيوب و بالصدفة كانت آخر حلقة له عرضت في العاشر من اكتوبر 2011 بعنوان الفقر تجوّل فراس في حي الجرادية بالرياض و دخل نفس الأماكن التي زارها الملك عبد الله عام 2002 الجدير بالذكر هو أن الفقر مازال مؤلم لم يتغير منذ 10 سنوات
Today is the 17th of October which is the international day to fight poverty. At the same day, Hossam and Firas, producers of Malub Alena show, were called for interrogation because of their YouTube show which coincidentally discussed the issue of poverty. Firas walked around Jaradiya neighborhood in Riyadh and visited the same places that King Abdullah went to in 2002 only to find that poverty there is still painful and the status didn't change over the past 10 years.

Twitter surely carried most of the Saudi reactions towards the news of releasing the three vloggers. Firas’ mother (@omm_feras) joined Twitter after his arrest only to post her prayers and thus gain attention, support, and sympathy for her son's case. After his release she tweeted for her 6000+ followers, whom she gained over two weeks, saying:

شكرا لكل من ساهم وسعى في هذه القضيه
@omm_feras: Thanks to all those who contributed and worked for this cause.

Saudi blogger Khaled Al-Nasser (@Mashi9a7) found the arrests helpful for the cause:

خبر الإعتقال دفعني لمشاهدة الفيلم لأول مرة، اعتقالهم سيزيد من شهرة الفيلم ويكسبه مزيد من المصداقية
@Mashi9a7: The arrests made me watch the episode for the first time, the arrests will make the episode more famous and give it more credit.

Saudi blogger Abdullah Al-Suwaiyan wrote a post after the arrests entitled Firas.. the prophet of new media:

في غضون ثلاثة أيام ينضمّ ما يزيد على 10000 متابِع لحساب فراس على تويتر والرقم في تزايد للمنضمين لحملة رفع عدد متابعي فراس لمساندة قضيته. وذلك دليل على أن الأثر العكسي سيكون إيجابيًا لمن يرفع شعار قضية إنسانية/إجتماعية
In three days [after the arrests], more than 10,000 users followed Firas's Twitter account and the number of those supporting his cause is increasing which means that the negative action of arresting him is being positive for a human and social cause.

Saad Al-Najdi (@SNajdi) used the opportunity to compare between mainstream media and citizen media:

إن الزخم الذي اكتسبه عمل فريق (ملعوب علينا) يبرهن موت الإعلام التمجيدي
@SNajdi: The reactions that the Malub Alena group has received proves the death of the [hailing obedient] media.

Lahem Alnasser (@lahem88) made the connection between the vloggers and political detainees in Saudi Arabia:

كان اعتقال فراس بقنة وبقية فريق ملعوب علينا اعلان لسقوط ورقة التوت التي كانت تغطي القبضة الامنية فهم ليسوا ارهابيين ولا سياسيين
@lahem88: The arrests of Firas and the rest of his team came as a proof that detainees are not necessarily politicians or terrorists, as security forces try to justify.

Another Saudi user (@SaudiLibral) saw releasing the vloggers as a victory:

اطلاق فريق ملعوب علينا هو انتصار لحرية الرأي والتعبير التي تؤمن بها العلمانية والليبرالية دون سواها من الافكار الرجعية
@SaudiLibral: Releasing the Malub Alena team is a victory for free speech that liberalism and secularism believe in, unlike the backward thoughts.

Ali Al-Nuaim (@nuaim2), Firas’ friend, tweeted the Firas’ words after his release:

اتصلت بفراس قبل قليل ، سعييييد بسماع صوته والحمد لله نفسيته ممتازة جدا ويشكر كل من وقف معه .. يارب لك الحمد
@nuaim2: I just called Firas, I'm really happy to have heard his voice again and thank god his morale is high and he thanks all of those who stood on his side. Oh thank You God.

Saudi (@eyad94Z) expressed his happiness with the release:

فليعيش شباب الديموقراطيه و الأعلآم الجديد
@eyad94Z: Long live the youth of democracy and new media.

Dhary Al-Sahbibi (@iDharoooy212) asked a question which was repeated by others:

هل سيكمل فراس برنامجه ؟ لا أظن .. الذي أظنه أن أفكاره تغيرت حالياً

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