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A resounding message

Fifty-nine-year-old journalist Jamal Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to obtain a document for his marriage. His fiancee waited outside, and when he took long, camped out in front of the consulate. He never came out.

A resounding message

What emerged from the Saudi consulate instead was a series of bizarre, conflicting stories. First they said he had gone back out to the streets of Istanbul. And then, that he was involved in a brawl and fistfight with those inside.

Turkish police said they had audio recordings that indicate Khashoggi was tortured and killed right inside the consulate. A team of 15 were flown in by private jets, did the deed, and then were flown out. The outrageous “official” stories and the specter of Khashoggi’s macabre end now shed light on press freedom not only in the Middle East, but the rest of the world.

In his last column for the Washington Post, received by the paper the day after he went missiing, Khashoggi said that what the Arab world needs most is free expression. He started with some statistics—that according to the 2018 Freedom in the World report, only Tunisia is classified as “free.” Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait were “partly free” with the rest of the Arab world “not free.”

Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed, he said. “They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative.”

Khashoggi ended his piece by saying: “We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”

The circumstances surrounding Khashoggi’s death must be investigated and the brains behind it exposed for their barbarity and impunity. Meanwhile, let Khashoggi’s message ring more loudly. Denying people information, or the right information, is keeping them in the dark and consigning them to a future of ignorance and poverty.

There have been many journalists across the world who have paid the ultimate price for championing free expression. The least we can do to honor their memory and their sacrifice is to press on, every day, despite attempts to muzzle and obfuscate.

Topics: Jamal Khashoggi , Saudi Arabia , Turkey , Press Freedom , Journalist , 2018 Freedom in the World
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