While freedom of the press is a highly protected right within the United States, as stated in our Constitution, the same sentiment does not carry over across the rest of the world. In many places, being a journalist and working to expose corruption and wrongdoing within a government or organization can be a one way ticket to the grave. Unfortunately, another case of this has occurred this month with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
October 2nd, 2018, The Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed following his criticism of the Saudi Arabian regime. Originally working for several news outlets in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi reported and commentated in favor of the regime. He interviewed Osama bin Laden and became friendly with him, as well as many within the Saudi Arabian royal family. For a long time, he was a loyal ally to his home country. However, this began to change once he began to show some criticism towards the country’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman.
Attacks from the Saudi regime came to him first over Twitter, with officials close to Salman threatening him for his critical words. Things came to a head in September 2017, when Khashoggi left the country, moved to Virginia and became a U.S. citizen. Here, he would work for The Washington Post, writing columns about Salman’s increasingly influential role in the Saudi regime. He would often express through his columns the disappointment he felt with his home country, wanting it to have freedom of the press rather than having political dissidents punished.
In his last column for The Washington Post, Khashoggi wrote: “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate.”
Friends of Khashoggi felt that the comments he would make about the Saudi regime and its missteps were dangerous, painting him to be a threat to the government. This was because he wasn’t just a critic within Saudi Arabia; his voice was now heard in the United States, potentially jeopardizing the regime’s relationship with the country.
On the day of his murder, he had arrived at a Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to fill out the paperwork required to marry his fiancee. At this point, reports of his condition and how he was killed have been conflicting across all accounts. While Turkish officials have asserted that he was murdered by Saudi assassin’s, the regime first claimed that he had left the consulate alive and well. However, they have since come out saying that he had indeed died inside the consulate as a result of a “brawl.”
Khashoggi’s fate and the Saudi regime’s treatment of the truth surrounding it have been hot topics among American news ever since. Many have been looking to President Trump on how he will move forward with this information, hoping that there will be some consequences for what has happened; especially since Khashoggi was a U.S. citizen. However, Trump has stated that he finds the regime’s statements credible, absolving them of fault and likely meaning that no punishment will be brought to the Saudi government. This is disappointing among many in the U.S. Congress, as several representatives across party lines have expressed their disbelief of the Saudi’s claims regarding the case.
While the case of Khashoggi’s death is horrific, it is only the most recent of many journalist killings that have occurred in the past years. Only time may tell whether or not countries will start seeing the consequences of their attacks against a free press, and whether or not brave journalists like Anna Politkovskaya (Russian), Marie Colvin (American), Javier Valdez Cardenas (Mexican), and Khashoggi will be the last journalists being killed in their line of duty.
by Jessica Grioua