The projection highlighted the Trump administration's refusal to hold the Saudi government accountable for ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Virginia resident, despite determinations by the CIA and a United Nations expert that implicated high-level Saudi officials, including the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the journalist’s killing on October 2, 2018.
The projection also points to the dangers journalists now face as a result of the lack of accountability for those involved in Khashoggi’s murder. According to RSF’s data, 49 journalists have been killed around the world in connection with their reporting since October 2018.
“The impunity enjoyed by Saudi Arabia one year after the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi is almost as shocking as the brutal act itself,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of Reporters Without Borders’ North America bureau. “We partnered with projection artist Robin Bell to remind our community that the President has not only allowed for the coverup of this brutal murder, but has even strengthened his alliance with the central actor of this horrific crime: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
In November 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on 17 Saudis who US Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin said were believed to be involved in Khashoggi’s murder. Saudi Arabia’s response has been to put 11 unnamed suspects on a trial shrouded in secrecy. In a report outlining the findings from her investigation into Khashoggi’s murder, Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, found sufficient credible evidence of Crown Prince Mohammed’s culpability and urged states to expand sanctions to include him for his role in the killing.
Nonetheless, the Trump administration has not taken action against the crown prince. After the Trump administration failed to provide Congress with the determination of responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder required under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, RSF and a coalition of US-based human rights organizations joined forces to pursue other avenues for justice through Congress, which has shown a bipartisan will to hold the Saudi government accountable for its actions.
“President Trump’s indifference toward the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi is not only morally reprehensible, but it has put a target on the backs of journalists around the world,” said Fassihian. “The brazenness of this premeditated murder and the impunity that surrounds it demonstrates that journalists can no longer trust the US government to protect them in the face of peril. This is the ultimate betrayal of American values.”
In April, an RSF delegation took an unprecedented trip to Riyadh to engage directly with Saudi government officials on the need for urgent press freedom reforms and the release of the 30 journalists and bloggers arbitrarily detained in the country. Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most oppressive countries for journalists, is ranked 172 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index. The United States ranks 48 after dropping three places in the last year.
Watch the full video of RSF's projection from October 1.