Press freedom is under siege following death of Saudi journalist

U.S.+Secretary+of+State+Mike+Pompeo+meets+with+King+Salman+of+Saudi+Arabia+to+discuss+the+disappearance+of+journalist+Jamal+Khashoggi.+%28public+domain%29
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Press freedom is under siege following death of Saudi journalist

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia to discuss the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (public domain)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia to discuss the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (public domain)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia to discuss the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (public domain)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia to discuss the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (public domain)

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There’s been a media frenzy over the last couple weeks about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and columnist for the Washington Post. The facts surrounding the journalist’s death are hazy, but what’s clear is this: Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct. 2, and hasn’t been seen since.

The official Saudi position on what happened has been constantly shifting. Since initially denying the journalist’s death, claiming he left through a back entrance, state media has shifted position to variously acknowledging Khashoggi’s death, but denying that it was intentional, to the current stance that his killing was intentional and premeditated, but not sanctioned by Saudi leadership. Throughout the whole affair, the Saudis have been careful to absolve their powerful crown prince Mohammad bin Salman of any knowledge of or responsibility for the journalist’s killing.

This whole affair might seem distant and irrelevant, if not for the fact that Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist who wrote pieces critical of the Saudi leadership, is now dead, evidently murdered by individuals connected to his own government. That a question as basic as the location of the journalist’s body cannot be answered should send chills down the spines of us all, because Khashoggi’s death is not just an isolated incident in some far-off corner of the world–it is a dangerous sign that the free press is now under siege.

Social studies teacher Jim Thompson painted a bleak picture.

“I don’t see the path forward being good,” Thompson said. “These things have been happening and are not new — it’s new for Saudi Arabia, but it’s not new for the world.”

Thompson pointed out the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack, in which two extremists attacked the Paris offices of a satirical magazine, killing twelve.

“(The 2015 attack) seemed to crystallize some stuff,” Thompson said. “It seemed like we were very serious about the press at that point… but we kind of dismissed it because it was Islamic extremism. But I don’t think we’re going to do anything about (violence against the press) — I think we’re too tribal.”

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