On the anniversary of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, prominent journalists from several nations in Southeast Asia this week joined the global chorus demanding justice for the slain journalist.
Abdul Manan, senior editor of Tempo Magazine and chairman of the Indonesian Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI), said he was not satisfied with Saudi Arabia’s handling of the Khashoggi case, as the mastermind behind the murder has not been held accountable under Saudi law.
“The international community should jointly put pressure on Saudi so justice is upheld in this case by accordingly punishing the perpetrators of this heinous murder,” Manan told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
Just over a year ago, on Oct. 2, 2018, Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate building in Istanbul to do paperwork for his upcoming marriage, but never came out alive.
His disappearance got widespread attention internationally in the past year, as the whereabouts of his body remains a mystery.
Manan called this the “most terrible part” of the case.
“Only the Saudi security officials know the whereabouts of his remains, so the international community needs to put pressure on them to provide real information about that,” he added.
The journalist known by the name Suwarjono, CEO and editor-in-chief of Suara.com, urged the Saudi government to reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body.
“The Saudi Arabian government is responsible for the loss of Khashoggi’s body. The government have to be honest. Isn’t dishonesty disgraceful? A big sin? Especially when it is clear that the Saudis have admitted to this murder,” he said.
Setback in democracy
Barly Haliem Noe, executive editor of the economic and investment daily Kontan, said the Saudi government’s failure to bring the case to light was a setback in its efforts to build democracy.
Noe said the world will believe in the “Saudi Vision 2030” of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman only if he genuinely tries to resolve the case.
“The world also has to continue to put pressure and demand the Saudis clearly uncover the actors involved in the Khashoggi killing, including the alleged involvement of the state,” Barly said.
“Investigating alleged involvement of the state is important to ensure that there is no precedent of repression of critical votes or turning off press freedom by Saudi Arabia.”
Ati Nurbaiti, editor of the Jakarta Post, called himself speechless and in “deepest revulsion” at a crime unimaginable to a government or its leaders who are guardians of holy mosques.
“I am deeply hurt as a journalist and Muslim and remain in shock at any mention of Khashoggi’s murder,” said Nurbaiti.
“His body was chopped, spread, and probably put in chemical materials,” he said, referring to widespread but uncomfirmed reports on the fate of Khashoggi’s remains. “This is why I’m so speechless to comment. It disgusts me.”
Saiful Alam, an editor at Bangladeshi daily The Jugantor, called Khashoggi’s murder an “unexpected and condemnable act.”
“We must create a space for accountability for such a brutal murder,” said Alam, who is also head of the Bangladesh National Press Club.
“A state consulate office where a person should have enjoyed highest security was turned into a place of murder of a top journalist. It must be accounted for. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul could never be perpetrated without state patronage. It should be accounted for and the perpetrators must face trial,” he added.
No justice in sight
Syed Fakhar KaKaKhel, an editor at Hum News in Pakistan, said that despite the ample evidence provided by Turkey, Khashoggi’s killers are still at large and “no justice is in sight in the near future.”
“A year passed and no action has been taken against the known culprit. Saudi Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has taken the responsibility but [says he is] unable to nab the perpetrators. It is a test case for the entire global journalist community to raise our voices and keep the voices loud until justice is done in this matter of brutality to our fellow journalist,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Nedim Riza, news director at Islamabad-based G News, also praised Turkey’s role.
“As far as the Saudi government [is] concerned, it really disappointed the global journalist community. It clearly shows how much our security is at risk. Despite the global outcry, we haven’t gotten justice for our fellow journalist,” said Riza.
Kallol Bhattacherjee, a New Delhi-based journalist with The Hindu newspaper, said that the murder needs to be seen in the “global context of the authoritarian assertion.”
“Authoritarian rulers feel popular democracy and the free press will undermine their rule,” he told Anadolu Agency. “For them, the sight of common citizens lining up to vote is as dangerous as a screaming headline or in-depth criticism of bad government policies. That is why there is a globally spread silent consensus among the leading states about controlling the press.”
Bhattacherjee compared Khashoggi’s murder with those of Anna Politkovskaya (2006) in Russia and Gauri Lankesh (2017) in India.
“Frankly, the Saudi state will not act on it unless it is compelled to do so and given its current clout that is unlikely to happen. Most of these cases may even get to the real murderers but the people who inspire such attacks are part of the state structure in some ways,” he said, adding: “That is why I am not hopeful for justice in the case of Jamal.”
“We have to remember that the case has brought the truth that the media will have to fight this battle for freedom with integrity and perseverance and of course remain totally fearless in speaking out,” he said.
Human rights violation
Daud Khan, an Islamabad-based journalist, said that Khashoggi’s murder was a crime against freedom of expression and a basic human rights violation.
“According to Article 19 of the UN Charter, freedom of expression is a basic human right, which was violated by the Saudi officials. His murder has raised serious questions about the Saudi government, which bears criticism, and Saudi journalists are not even safe in foreign countries,” he added.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national and columnist for The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives in October 2018 shortly after he entered the consulate in Istanbul to get a marriage certificate.
After weeks of denying involvement, Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi had been killed at the consulate but claimed that the royal family had no prior knowledge of a plot to murder him.
According to reports by the UN and other independent organizations, he was murdered and dismembered. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accepted responsibility for the killing but denied ordering it.
*Writing by Sorwar Alam
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