Journalist Jamal Khashoggi is one of the reporters who paid the ultimate price for his belief in free speech. His murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year serves as a cautionary tale.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that the number of journalists killed in retaliation for their work has doubled. “journalists have never before been subjected to as much violence and abusive treatment as in 2018,” according to the media freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Khashoggi lived in self-imposed exile in the United States. He went to the Saudi consulate to formalise his divorce, only to be strangled and dismembered in the consulate. A year after Khashoggi’s murder a lack of justice shows that tyrannical leaders can carelessly continue their abuse of human rights and ramp up their attacks on critics, as well as the free press.
Justice for Khashoggi
Although many questions about what happened remain unanswered, the known details have left the world in shock and outrage. It was never a secret that Saudi Arabian authorities wanted to silence Khashoggi. Yet, no one expected the KSA to send fifteen Saudi agents to Istanbul to silence him for good at the consulate. The person overseeing the ghastly affair was a close advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the time. His name is Saud al-Qahtani, a key player in the young prince’s efforts to silence any criticism of his leadership. However, who the perpetrators are and if they will be held accountable for Khashoggi’s killing isn’t clear.. The Saudis say there is a trial underway, giving in to international pressure. Nevertheless they have kept the proceedings under a veil of secrecy, but al-Qahtani is definitely not on trial.
Does the Saudi crown prince take responsibility?
Bin Salman recently told CBS that he takes responsibility “as a leader” in his country. Yet, in the next breath he distanced himself from the murder, saying it took place without him knowing about it. The crown prince said “it’s impossible for “3 million people working for the Saudi government” to send daily reports to the leader.
The message to the world is: if Saudi Arabia can get away with the murder of Khashoggi, they can get away with anything. Which might inspire other repressive regimes. Despite the international pressure, US President Donald Trump brushed it off when the CIA revealed a link between bin Salman and Khashoggi’s murder.
When UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard issued her own report, saying the murder was likely a premeditated execution, it received more attention from the media than it did from officials.
The US Congress tried to hold the Crown Prince and the Saudi leadership accountable, by banning arms sales to the kingdom. But these efforts were halted by the White House.
Khashoggi killing not an isolated case
As a well-known journalist and columnist for the Washington Post, Khashoggi had many colleagues to speak for him. The audacity of the crime and the fact it took place in a third country is what attracted the attention. Khashoggi’s killing was one in a long series of assaults on critics of the Saudi monarchy. Even as the Crown Prince was being acknowledged as a “reformer” and a “moderniser,” he made sure journalists, bloggers, artists, activists and anyone whose views he could not tolerate were imprisoned. International criticism toward this wave of repression was too slow. The Saudi regime felt free to take action abroad to silence one of its most famous critics. With the failure to hold Khashoggi’s killers accountable so far, the repression has resumed just as quietly as always.
Why was Khashoggi killed?
A year after journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder the journalist’s fiancée Hatice attended a commemoration at the consulate. She waited him outside while he was being killed and dismembered. Hatice Cengiz gathered with activists and friends for a ceremony that began at precisely 1:14 p.m. at the same time Khashoggi had entered the building last year, never to return. Cengiz is calling for answers from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA concluded ordered Khashoggi’s death. “Why was Jamal killed and why has the public not been informed about the death until now?” Cengiz said in an interview with The Associated Press. “For instance, we don’t know where the body is. His funeral prayers have not been performed. There has been no burial.” She said to have felt anxious and afraid about returning to the consulate. “Last year, I was waiting for Jamal on my own. This year the whole world will be waiting with me for Jamal — but we will be waiting for justice for Jamal.”