Mexico’s drug cartel killers been dismembering journalists and leaving their remains on garbage dumps for years but who would have imagined that government agents might be capable of killing and dismembering a journalist within a diplomatic compound? And yet this is what happened to Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, to the entire world’s dismay.
On October 1st, RSF staged this protest with shop window models on the first anniversary of Khashoggi’s death to remind Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince that the entire world is still stunned and appalled by this brutal murder. The symbols of many dismembered human bodies were used to express the scale and enduring nature of this shock. Other actions will take place all around the world.
Saudi Arabia should not be able to exercise the G20 presidency unless civil society and foreign leaders insist that it accept the consequences, which must include guaranteeing press freedom and protecting journalists. Saudi Arabia’s international image and position cannot be normalized unless its authorities give clear undertakings.
“Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the handling of the investigation testify to barbaric practices and an unacceptable level of impunity,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said outside the consulate today.
“We expect a full accounting, and we think that sentencing perpetrators to death would just be a way to silence them for ever, to conceal the truth. This appalling crime has revealed Saudi Arabia’s policy for silencing journalists to those who were unaware, a policy based on torture, abduction and even outright murder.”
Asked about the Khashoggi murder in a recent interview for US public TV broadcaster PBS, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said, “I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch,” but he implicitly denied any prior knowledge or involvement. Aside from the fact that he was probably lying, taking responsibility should mean putting a stop to press freedom violations in Saudi Arabia.
RSF calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the 30 journalists, columnists and bloggers being held in Saudi Arabia for exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression.
They include Saleh Al-Shehi, a journalist with the newspaper Al-Watan, who has been sentenced to five years in prison on a charge of “insulting the Royal Court,” Raif Badawi who was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes for starting a debate about Saudi society on his Saudi Liberal Network website, and two women’s rights activists, Nouf Abdulaziz and Nassima Al-Sada, who were arrested in June and July 2018.
The number of imprisoned journalists and bloggers in Saudi Arabia has doubled since MBS was named crown prince in 2017, with at least 30 currently detained. Saudi Arabia is ranked 172nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.