NEW YORK – If you shudder reading the horrific details of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, are appalled at the sheer brutality of this Saudi Arabia-ordered assassination, then another detail in this story of evil might haunt you for days on end, make you realize there is no depth of depravity in some men who are outside of the purview of common laws that govern humanity.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the Crown Prince Salman and his father King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Saud, were pictured shaking hands with the victim’s eldest son, offering their condolences, at an investment conference in Riyadh. That son was a ‘prisoner’ in the country despite being a dual citizen of the US and Saudi Arabia, as his passport was not being renewed, for months.
Days after he locked eyes with the men who likely ordered his father’s murder, helpless to even slap those perpetrators, instead forced to shake hands with them, listen to false condolences and sympathies, Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi was allowed to leave the country, on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia has confessed to the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, as a premeditated one. What does that change? Nothing. Everybody either knew it or suspected this already.
The real question is: what will the rest of the world, especially the US, do to Saudi Arabia, besides mere rhetoric?
There is no dearth of rulers and dictators who are deemed war criminals. Some barbarians do face trial at the International Criminal Court at The Hague; most are never punished, get away with impunity. Will Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman and his father King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Saud face the court? Will President Trump take some drastic action against the Saudis?
Trump, who has berated enough journalists in his first term in office, has said Saudi authorities had staged the “worst cover-up ever” of the crime. He also made it clear who he thinks is behind the murder, saying in an interview to Wall Street Journal: “The prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.”
The murder of Khashoggi follows a trend of increasing violence against journalists around the world. The Washington Post columnist Jason Rezaian, who himself spent 544 days imprisoned by Iranian authorities until his release in January 2016, noted in February of this year, citing numbers from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): ‘2017 was the most dangerous year ever for journalists. Eighteen journalists were killed around the world in 2017, a record number were imprisoned and threats against the press seemingly have become common, even in the West. Don’t expect that to change in 2018.’
The victims in 2017 included two from India: Gauri Lankesh, shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru, and Rajesh Mishra, a stringer for the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, shot dead in Brahmanpur Chatti, a town in the Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh.
Rezaian was spot on in his assessment.
According to CJP, so far in 2018, including Khashoggi’s murder, a total of 28 journalists around the world have been murdered. These numbers are separate from the number of journalists killed in cross-fire in war zones or other incidents.
That number of 28 include four journalists from the US: Gerald Fischman, editorial page editor for the Capital Gazette, who was shot dead by a disgruntled shooter in the Capital’s newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28, 2018. The other victims were editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, sports writer John McNamara, and community correspondent Wendi Winters. A fifth victim, Rebecca Smith, was a sales assistant at the newspaper.
In India, Navin Nischal, a stringer for the Hindi-language daily, Dainik Bhaskar, was killed on the evening of March 25, 2018, after an SUV ran him over in the town of Arrah in Bihar, which was later pinpointed to a dispute; and Sandeep Sharma, a reporter for the local News World television channel in Madhya Pradesh state’s Bhind district, was killed on March 26, 2018. He was killed for his reports on corruption. Shujaat Bukhari, editor of The Rising Kashmir, was the third victim in India this year. He was shot dead outside his office, of Free Press Kashmir.
Reporters Without Borders, another organization that tracks violence against journalists, has a higher number than CPJ, with their ‘Barometer 2018’ recording as of October 25, a total of 60 journalists killed, apart from 11 citizens journalists killed, and four media assistants killed.
The irony is that the only country who is really forcing the Saudis to admit to their culpability, Turkey, has a terrible record of its own against journalists, with their president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a ‘monster’ in his own right in curbing press freedom.
The CPJ noted that Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the past two years. Of the record-high 262 journalists who were jailed because of their work in 2017, 73 of them were incarcerated in Turkey.
In fact, both Erdogan and Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Saud are on the ‘Predators of Press Freedom’ gallery by Reporters Without Borders.
It’s time the world raised their voice together to get justice for men like Khashoggi. Or else, the number of fatalities, unnatural deaths of journalists, will keep rising.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on twitter @SujeetRajan1)