14 October 2018
The single most important facet of democracy is the freedom of speech. Journalists are the agents of this freedom. They put their lives on the line to ensure that we receive the truth from across the world – from the front line of terrifying wars to the dark corners of oppressive regimes.
There’s no denying that the press have been questioned themselves lately. British journalists are often criticised for focusing on ‘Red Top’ stories and clickbait. Unfortunately we are significantly down the charts of “do we trust the news in our media?” compared with other countries in the world. Only 42% of people trusting what they read to be accurate and true.
But there is a big difference between the journalists who look for sensationalism – often under pressure from editors to sell more newspapers and drive traffic to websites – and the amazing people who dedicate their lives to truth and justice, risking life and limb for a greater cause.
Whilst Donald Trump has spent many weeks calling out America’s press and their ‘Fake News,’ today Trump sets aside his own differences with the press, against forces that threaten the very status quo of free speech.
Reporters put themselves at risk. They leave their family and friends, potentially never to see them again, because they know how important it is to find the truth and share it. It’s impossible not to admire these individuals.
Finding the truth
The investigative journalists hold us all to account, politicians, business leaders and governments alike. They have a huge amount of influence and power. Journalists share injustices so that wrongs can be righted and avoided in the future. They unearth controversies. The press help to drive the conversations that we have every single day. We live in a very different and much safer world today. We owe a great deal of this to journalists and those who are prepared to stand up for what is right.
So, to read of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is desperately sad.
Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, served as editor for a Saudi newspaper
before fleeing the country in September 2017 after the government banned him from Twitter. Afterwards he wrote newspaper articles critical of the Saudi government. He has been sharply critical of both Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and the country’s king, Salman of Saudi Arabia. Few people are brave enough to speak up in places like Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi was one of those rare and brave characters.
On 2 October 2018, Khashoggi who was planning to marry his fiancée, was last seen going inside the main entrance of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. He was there to obtain a document that proved he was divorced. His fiancée Hatice Cengiz, from Turkey, had waited outside from him to come straight out. But when the consulate closed at 3.30pm and there was still no sign of him by 4pm she reported him missing.
The Saudi government said that he had left the consulate via a back entrance, which doesn’t necessarily make sense knowing his fiancee was waiting for him at the front of the building.
What is more sinister is the Turkish government has said that he was still inside. According to numerous anonymous police sources, the Turkish police believe that Khashoggi was tortured and killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a 15-member team brought in from Saudi Arabia for the operation.
One anonymous police source claimed that the dead body was chopped to pieces and quietly moved out of the consulate. It’s also claimed that all of this was “videotaped to prove the mission had been accomplished and the tape was taken out of the country”.
Turkish authorities have claimed that security camera footage was removed from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and that Turkish consulate staff were abruptly told to take a holiday on the day Khashoggi disappeared while inside the building. Turkish police investigators told the media that the recordings from the security cameras did not show any evidence of Khashoggi leaving the consulate. A security camera was located outside the consulate’s front which had showed him entering but not leaving. Another camera installed at a preschool opposite the rear entrance of the consulate also did not show him leaving.
A collective response
Following the news of the journalist’s disappearance, governments, celebrities, media groups and businesses have all pulled out of events and deals with the country, condemning possible Saudi government involvement.
Trump has made threats of sanctions or political pressure, which the Saudi government today rejected. But Trump made it clear that he didn’t want to risk jobs that have been created after recent weapons deals with Saudi Arabia.
Richard Branson was one of the first to suspend ties with the country following the disappearance. Branson has suspended his involvement as a director in two tourism projects until information comes to light about Mr Khashoggi. In the same vein, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshani has pulled his involvement in the Future Investment Initiative conference. Partnerships have also been pulled from the conference, including CNN and the Financial Times.
The global response highlights just how important it is for journalists to be protected.
Al-Jazeera reported that “the Arab world stays silent”, there’s been no official reaction from any Arab government. There has also been hardly any condemnation from Arab media. Who can blame them! If you intimidate one, many will hide and the truth will never come to light. Or so you may think. Where journalists are concerned, and clearly in this case, there are many great people speaking out and coming to his rescue, albeit sadly possibly too late.