To anyone concerned by the growing trend of state forces persecuting critics and dissidents around the world, the reaction from the world media and the United States on Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance has been a relief. Too long the media has stayed quiet as investigative reporters, critics, activists, and dissidents have been imprisoned and killed.
Just over the past few months, Saudi women who campaigned for basic human rights are now facing phone charges such as disturbing the social order, a crime punishable by death in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The US media did report that but not with the intensity and vigor that these women merited.
The Canadian government under Justin Trudeau showed the guts as it publicly called on the Saudi government to release the activists, one of them of whom was a Canadian citizen. Saudi Arabia responded by severing diplomatic and economic ties with the North American nation.
Ironically, Washington Post ran multiple op-eds that criticized Trudeau’s confused foreign policy rather than call out Muhammad bin Salman for jailing human rights activists. Majority of the liberal media did the same. The Saudis hired lobbyist firms to portray MBS as a reformer, who went on news networks to defend him.
The rightist networks were even worse. To help Trump’s hand in his renovation of NAFTA, the called into question Trudeau’s credibility, soundness, and clarity of mind and policy. What should have been an issue of taking a stand against the abusers of human rights, quickly became an indictment of Trudeau’s.
I don’t personally like Justin Trudeau. He is insincere and fully in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. But that’s a different topic.
As Jamal Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi consulate, all of that changed. Where the Washington Post had sided with the Saudis against human rights campaigners, the demanded answers from the Saudis even publishing a symbolic blank Op-Ed from Khashoggi.
Pity that had the Washington Post taken a tough tone against Saudis when they jailed women asking for human rights, they might not have dared to plot against Jamal Khashoggi and he would still be safe and alive.
The role of the media is to keep the government in check. It becomes especially true when the media in question is one of the biggest distributors of news in the world. It is hard for me to isolate what happened to Jamal Khashoggi from the leeway Washington Post gave MBS.
Had they kept him in check when he was jailing women’s rights activists, he would have shunned the plot. In a democracy, there is an opposition that keeps those in power in check but in case of a monarchy or a dictatorship, the role of the world media becomes doubly important.
Critics and dissidents in those states rely on their foreign comrades to protect them from the outside. The only hope they have is that if they are killed or arrested, the foreign powers will move to aide them or their families.
It is not all about guns and bullets, the power of a pen is enough to bring a state to its’ knees. It is that role that the Washington Post along with so many other newspapers did not fulfill.
But I sympathize with them fully. It is not easy to lose one’s colleague especially with the courage and resolve that Jamal Khashoggi showed.
But it aches me just as much when an Eritrean, Filipino, American, Italian, Bulgarian, or a Russian critic or dissident of any other nation is arrested or killed. Why can’t the Washington Post hold all crimes against critics to the same standard regardless of whether or not they wrote for their paper?
It is still a relief to see that the Washington Post is not letting Saudis off the hook. It really wouldn’t have surprised me had the swept the matter under the rug after a day or two of incensed reporting.