Former Saudi Arabian journalist, Washington Post columnist, and author, Jamal Khashoggi, was last seen alive two weeks ago while entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. His disappearance has resulted in jarring reports by the media, including assumptions about a possible kidnapping and gruesome murder, as well as global speculation as to what really happened inside the Saudi Consulate. Though Khashoggi’s death remains unconfirmed, the United States took six days to issue any official statement, according to the Boston Globe. This period of reluctant inaction reflects an unwillingness to enforce central democratic principles in the face of economic backlash.
These six days have shown a prioritization of maintaining economically beneficial relationships over the unjust treatment of an American Permanent Resident and journalist. The press’ right to report on issues, controversial or not, should remain protected and separate, and the negation of this right sets a dangerous precedent for the treatments of journalists on a domestic and international stage, further undermining the press’ role in checking government power.
Khashoggi’s last article, filed to The Washington Post before his disappearance, was published on October 17. Titled, “What the Arab world needs most is free expression,” Khashoggi describes the freedom of the press as a means not only to express freely one’s opinions, but also as a driving factor for social change. He wrote, “We need to provide a platform for Arab voices. Through the creation of an independent international forum… ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.”
To be reluctant to pursue consequences in the face of a journalist’s alleged murder, whether true or otherwise, is to overlook what makes independent journalism crucial. Like Khashoggi says, freedom of expression enables people of all backgrounds and statuses to report on the powerful and hold them accountable. And this right transcends economic policies — it speaks to what it means to be an American citizen.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, vol. CXLI.