G20 summit : gesture needed from Saudis to recover place on international stage

Saudi Arabia was isolated during the Group of 20’s last summit, held a few weeks after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, but now it is about to take over the G20 presidency from Japan at the summit in Osaka at the end of the month. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says the Saudis must free all of their imprisoned journalists in order to be able to assume such a prominent diplomatic role.

By taking on the G20 presidency for the next year after the 28-29 June summit in Osaka, Riyadh SEE THE PRISONERSHEREwould be returning to the centre of the international stage just nine months after Khashoggi’s murder. In RSF’s view, this cannot happen without a significant prior gesture – the release of all the professional and non-professional journalists currently held arbitrarily in Saudi Arabia. According to the latest information gathered by RSF, they are at least 30, which makes the country one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists.

RSF noted that the university academic and journalist Hatoon Al-Fassi was released provisionally in May, on the eve of Ramadan. Shortly before that, Eman Al-Nafjan, a women’s rights activist who blogged as Saudi Woman, was released provisionally in March.

Part of a group of 11 women who were the victims of an unprecedented wave of arrests a year ago, they were accused inter alia of “suspicious contacts with foreign entities” because of their links with foreign media, diplomats and human rights groups. Both of these journalists were on RSF lists that were passed directly to the Saudi authorities.

“By taking on the G20 presidency, Saudi Arabia would be placing itself under the world’s most powerful diplomatic and media spotlights, and we think it would not have the legitimacy to assume this role when dozens of journalists are still detained nine months after Jamal Khashoggi’s gruesome murder by Saudi agents,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“The international community cannot offer Saudi Arabia the political benefits of the G20 presidency without a major gesture after the Istanbul tragedy. We urge Riyadh to face up to its responsibilities by withdrawing all charges against the 30 arbitrarily detained journalists, and we urge all of the other G20 member countries to intervene to this end.”

Saudi Arabia is ranked 172nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 17.06.2019