RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force have joined 29 other press freedom organizations in seeking a full investigation by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia into the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a Saudi native who was living under self-imposed exile in suburban Washington, D.C., vanished October 2 while visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was attempting to obtain paperwork necessary to marry his fiancée, a Turkish national.
The Turkish government says it has evidence that Saudi agents murdered Khashoggi in Turkey. Saudi Arabia’s ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, insists Khashoggi left the Saudi Consulate safely and says he is worried for the columnist’s safety.
In an October 11 letter to Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., RTDNA and the other press freedom groups partnering in the effort said, in part:
The threat of violence, kidnapping or death to any journalist who is seeking the truth and reporting it is dangerous to freedom and democracy around the world. It is of utmost importance that officials do everything in their power to find Khashoggi, return him to his fiancée and family and hold those responsible for his disappearance accountable.
“Mr. Khashoggi’s body of work contains columns critical of the Saudi government. There is credible evidence from Turkish authorities to suggest some harm may befallen him while he was in Istanbul. We urge the Saudis to assist in the investigation into his disappearance fully and openly,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, both Saudi Arabia and Turkey have questionable press freedom track records, to say the least. Seventy-three reporters and photojournalists were imprisoned in Turkey in 2017; seven were jailed in Saudi Arabia.
“Because both nations involved have less than stellar points of view regarding the rights of journalists to do their jobs freely, we also call on the U.S. government, which has friendly diplomatic relations with both nations, to intervene in the Khashoggi case in order to seek the truth as to his situation,” Shelley added.
RTDNA formed the nonpartisan Voice of the First Amendment Task Force to defend against threats to the First Amendment and news media access, and to help the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. RTDNA is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the archive of record for threats against press freedom in America. Reach out to RTDNA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.