The two leaders are accused of being behind a hack and leak campaign aimed at defaming one of the Arab world’s most prominent female anchors.
Senior Al Jazeera anchor Ghada Oueiss has filed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed on Wednesday for reportedly targeting her in a hack and leak operation.
According to Washington-based news website, The Hill, Oueiss filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida, alleging that both crown princes were behind a group of other Saudi and UAE officials, as well as American citizens, behind the operation.
Oueiss’ lawsuits names Florida-based Sharon Collins and Hussam Al-Jundi, who are accused of publishing “stolen information” from the Al Jazeera anchor’s phone and who the lawyers say “participated in a conspiracy against the journalist”.
6 months ago the Crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE believed they could silence me by hacking my phone, stealing my private pictures and spreading them with false misogynistic claims. 1/6
— Ghada Oueiss غادة عويس (@ghadaoueiss) December 9, 2020
“[The operation] intended to undermine her character and her journalistic career due to Oueiss’s critical reporting on the Saudi Arabian and UAE governments,” The Hill reported.
According to The Hill, some of the defendants were part of the same group of Saudi and UAE officials who were involved in the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in 2018.
“At a minimum, holding these people accountable, letting the world know that this is happening, and putting the world on notice that this activity is occurring,” the lead attorney on the case, Dan Rashbaum, told The Hill.
Oueiss filed the document through Miami-based law firm, Marcus Neiman Rashbaum & Pineiro [MNR] LLP.
The online attacks on her intensified after she began reporting on the killing of Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018, she said.
The court document described the operation as a “joint and coordinated effort” by the Saudi and UAE governments.
Earlier this year, in a Washington Post op-ed, Ouiess said that the hacking operation involved stealing pictures of her in a swimsuit, which were doctored to give the false impression that she was naked.
Oueiss also added that some of the pictures were retweeted over 40,000 times within hours by social media accounts that overtly displayed their support to the Saudi and UAE crown princes.
“Although I was the target of this latest assault – no doubt because I regularly present critical reporting about Saudi Arabia and the UAE – the message to journalists across the Middle East is very clear: Don’t criticize the crown princes,” Oueiss wrote in the op-ed.
Oueiss’s recent move has been hailed and supported by other journalists and human rights officials.
“For being a journalist & a woman, Ghada has been subjected to misogynistic bullying and despicable personal attacks. She is fighting back now! Best wishes to you Ghada & all the support!” said Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim in a tweet.