What Happened To Jamal Khashoggi And Why Is His Death A Threat To Freedom Of Expression?

At 1:14pm on October 2nd, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist, entered the Saudi Arabian embassy in Istanbul to collect a document that certified he had divorced his ex-wife. This would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancé, Hatice Cengiz. Prior to entering the embassy Khashoggi gave his fiancé two mobile phones and told her to call an adviser to the Turkish President if something were to go wrong. Cengiz waited ten hours before she made that call.

Over the last few weeks the Saudi Arabian government have been changing the narrative of what happened to its journalist. Their original statement was that they had no idea what happened to him and insisted that he had left the building. However, with there being no video footage of Khashoggi leaving, this statement proved to be false.

Two weeks later, Saudi officials altered the story and insisted that the journalist had died in a brawl. According to this report, when Khashoggi refused to move back to his nation, one of the men began strangling him, causing him to suffocate. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local “co-operator” to be disposed of. Once again, this story failed to convince the international community as there is no footage of Khashoggi’s body leaving the building and the Saudi embassy did not reveal the identity of the local co-operator.

With Saudi Arabia not giving an honest account of the events that occurred at the embassy, it has led many to believe that the Islamic Kingdom is responsible for the assassination of Khashoggi. Turkish President, Tayyip Erdoğan claims to have audio evidence which proves that fifteen men confronted and tortured the journalist before dismembering his body.

Furthermore, on the day of Khashoggi’s meeting, fifteen Saudi men flew to Istanbul on private jets. This group of men included senior officials to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, four were identified as members of the Saudi royal bodyguard and one was a forensic specialist who was spotted with a bone saw at the airport.

While it is still unclear what happened to Khashoggi, there is no denying that his death is a threat to freedom of expression. Journalists have always found it difficult to fully express themselves under Saudi’s strict regime ruling.

Freedom of expression has become more restricted ever since Mohammad bin Salman was appointed Prince in June 2017. Prince Salman has worked tirelessly to silence critics of the Saudi Kingdom and the Islamic religion. He has ordered the arrest of fifteen Saudi journalists in the last year and even had blogger Raif Badawi lashed 1000 times for dismissing the role of Islam in public life. These cases illustrate that the people of Saudi Arabia are not safe to voice their opinions.

The international community has been quick to voice their disapproval against Prince Salman’s extrajudicial execution on Khashoggi. Foreign ministers from Germany, UK, and France released a joint statement expressing their disapproval of Khashoggi’s death saying that ”The threatening, attacking or killing of journalists, under any circumstances, is unacceptable and of utmost concern to our three nations.”

These three countries have also enforced heavy trade sanctions against Saudi Arabia, in hopes that it will pressure the Islamic Kingdom to allow the UN to undergo a proper and transparent investigation into the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

American President Donald Trump has also criticized the Saudi leadership for their poor investigation into the murder of Khashoggi, insisting it is the ”worst ever cover-up.” However, given America’s strong diplomatic ties with the Islamic Kingdom, they have yet to enforce sanctions of their own.

It is hoped that Trump will follow in the footsteps of France, Germany and the UK. By showing condemnation against the actions of Prince Salman, people are more likely to achieve justice for Khashoggi and attain freedom of expression for Saudi journalists and citizens.