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Saudi journalist and activist honoured at RSF Press Freedom Awards

Eman al-Nafjan has been awarded the Prize for Courage for her years-long struggle against Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system
Eman al-Nafjan could face up to 20 years in jail for campaigning for women's rights in Saudi Arabia. (File pic - Reuters)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Thursday awarded its 2019 Press Freedom Prize to three female journalists, including Saudi Arabia’s Eman al-Nafjan who has been accused by the Saudi authorities of threatening “national security”.

A linguistic professor and journalist, Nafjan was awarded RSF’s Prize for Courage, which is offered to those “who demonstrate courage in the practice, defence or promotion of journalism.”

Nafjan, along with other activists including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, and Hatoon al-Fassi, have led years-long campaigns against Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving, only to be arrested last year just before the kingdom’s landmark decision to lift restrictions on female motorists.

Activists group say some of the activists were held in solitary confinement and subjected to mistreatment and torture, including electric shocks, flogging and threats of rape and murder.

The New York Times reported in March that Nafjan’s treatment was so harsh that she tried to commit suicide, according to a US intelligence assessment.

Nafjan was granted provisional release on 28 March, but could be jailed for up to 20 years for charges that include treason and of maintaining “suspicious contacts with foreign entities”.

RSF also awarded Vietnamese journalist and blogger Pham Doan Trang with the Prize for Impact, and Maltese journalist Caroline Muscat with the Prize for Independence.