Commentary: The Price of Free Speech

On October 2, Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Still, over three weeks after his death, our government has done little more than make statements to the press. The United States is known as a bastion of free speech, which includes freedom of the press. If we are truly adamant about protecting this right, Americans must actively fight for justice for Khashoggi.

As an op-ed writer, Khashoggi frequently criticized the Saudi Arabian prince and government. His writings for The Washington Post discussed everything from “Black Panther’s” impact on Saudi Arabia, to the Arab Spring, to even comparing the crown prince of Saudi Arabia to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Although details are murky, security footage shows Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. According to Business Insider, the Turkish government alleges that 13 Saudi Arabian hitmen entered the consulate afterward and murdered Khashoggi, while Saudi officials claim that he was killed in a fistfight. The United States has yet to explicitly endorse a story; however, President Donald Trump has stated that the killing was “the worst cover-up ever,” according to “The New York Times.”

These conflicting accounts provided by Saudi Arabia and Turkey are still missing details. One country, however, is missing from this mix: the United States. Jamal Khashoggi was a green card holder and a Virginia resident. He wrote for The Washington Post, a prominent American news source. All of these details make clear that it is our civic duty as Americans to stand up for his rights, and the rights of journalists all across the globe. Yet, President Trump has taken no decisive action towards finding justice.

This should come as no surprise, considering statements Trump has made in the past regarding journalistic integrity. In February 2017, he called media sources such as The “New York Times,” NBC, and CNN “the enemy of the American people.” He has also called news media “totally dishonest” and “fake,” according to “The Washington Post.”

While it is great that Trump has made statements condemning the attack and has blacklisted 21 Saudi nationals from entering the United States, these actions are incongruous with the actions of the State Department. Last Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia. That same day, the United States received 100 million dollars from the country, according to Business Insider. This irrefutable evidence speaks for itself.

It is clearly hypocritical to attack Saudi Arabia for covering up a murder while refusing to cut them off as a source of income. This leads citizens to a clear conclusion: until the United States government takes decisive action to protect the rights of its citizens by refusing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, it is shirking its duty to our country.

Additionally, while some may argue that Khashoggi was not a United States citizen or on United States soil during his death, therefore forfeiting any claim to the right of free speech, Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, which is considered neutral diplomatic ground.

In the wake of this tragedy, both Americans and Andover students must remember our values. One such value is free speech, which we should protect by encouraging political discourse and welcoming dissonance. We must call out our government when they speak without acting. We must also provide a protected platform for those who are brave enough to criticize authority. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said it best: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” With these small acts of resistance, students and citizens alike will prove that Jamal Khashoggi’s death has not been in vain. Despite what some governments may prefer, free speech is here to stay.

Ava Ratcliff is a two-year Lower from Bearsville, NY. Contact the author at