JEDDAH: Police in Saudi Arabia have released a journalist who went undercover as a doctor to pursue an investigative story.
Abdul Aziz Al-Ghamdi reportedly dressed up as doctor and equipped with a stethoscope as part of an investigation into three hospitals in Jeddah.
His report revealed several security lapses at the hospitals, given that he said he was not asked for identification, as well as long waiting times for patients, according to media reports.
Al-Ghamdi reportedly claimed that no one stopped him from entering the hospital buildings, where he was able to access wards and even check up on patients.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health later pressed for prosecution on charges of impersonating a doctor and invading the privacy of patients, leading to the reporter being detained for two days.
Jeddah police later released Al-Ghamdi after receiving a letter from the General Prosecutor’s Office, and his case is now expected to be referred to the Ministry of Media.
However, Arab News has learned that his release came as a result of efforts made by the Ministry of Media which argued that Al-Ghamdi’s behavior was journalistically acceptable and for the public good.
Al-Ghamdi thanked his editor at Al-Madinah newspaper and other officials as he left the police department.
“I would like to thank Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al-Mojeb, Minister of Media Awwad Al-Awwad, the editor in chief of Al-Madinah newspaper Fahd Al-Aqran, my colleagues and all those who stood by me for their efforts and support,” he told Arab News on Thursday.
Al-Ghamdi’s case had divided opinion in Saudi Arabia. Some argued that his actions were vital to the work of a free press, and criticized the Ministry of Health pressing for prosecution. Yet others believe it was wrong for Al-Ghamdi to impersonate a doctor.