Politicians are right to express outrage over Khashoggi's death. But in some cases, their sudden eagerness for justice looks disingenuousby Rebecca Vincent / October 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
The disappearance and now confirmed death of Jamal Khashoggi at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul has put press freedom at the centre of the international agenda—and led to the curious spectacle of one of the world’s greatest jailers of journalists being cast as a protector of the rights of reporters to write and speak freely.
As the official Saudi story of what happened to the Washington Post columnist in the Gulf state’s Istanbul consulate changes almost daily, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised: “We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth.”
Turkish media workers will be forgiven for any scepticism towards Erdogan’s newfound commitment to the unfettered pursuit of truth, outlined in a meeting of his parliamentary party where he spoke of the special duty to find justice for an internationally renowned journalist such as Khashoggi.
Since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, around 150 media outlets have been shut down in Turkey. Dozens of Turkish journalists are currently behind bars, some serving harshly disproportionate life sentences, while shameful mass trials continue.
Turkey has become the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists, and is now ranked 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.
It’s not just Turkey’s demagogical president who appears disingenuous in his sudden eagerness for justice.
While a White House statement committed the US to “advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process,” the president himself seemed willing to accept the Saudi government’s ever-changing version of events at any particular time.
Trump said on Saturday that claims Khashoggi had died in a fistfight in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul seemed “credible,” while also stating that any sanctions against Saudi Arabia would not include the halting of arms sales. Trump’s language has grown more sceptical, but he has already made it clear he would not risk commercial ties with the Saudis.
The United States may see free expression as a cornerstone of its being, but the entire Trump presidency has been characterised by assault after assault on the very concept of a free critical press, supposedly protected by the first amendment to the constitution—often cited as the ne plus ultra of…