Ap­par­ent mur­der of miss­ing jour­nal­ist should con­cern us all

The Southern Berks News - - OPINION - Gene Policin­ski Colum­nist Gene Policin­ski

Jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi is miss­ing and pre­sumed to have been mur­dered, and the world does not know who is re­spon­si­ble.

That there is no an­swer yet is, in it­self, a tragedy.

Turkey’s gov­ern­ment said on Oct. 8 that Khashoggi, a prom­i­nent jour­nal­ist from Saudi Ara­bia now liv­ing in the United States and a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Global Opin­ions page, ap­par­ently was killed in the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul ear­lier this month.

Saudi Ara­bian of­fi­cials have de­nied that dec­la­ra­tion.

What we know is that Khashoggi en­tered the Saudi Ara­bian mis­sion of­fices on Oct. 2 and has not been seen since that time. His fi­ancée, who waited out­side for hours that day, said she has not seen him since he went into the mis­sion. A sur­veil­lance cam­era out­side the con­sulate shows Khashoggi en­ter­ing, but no video has been pro­duced show­ing him de­part­ing.

We also know that Khashoggi was a vo­cal critic of Saudi lead­ers — and of a gov­ern­ment that has been crack­ing down on dis­sent and crit­i­cism.

Khashoggi had fled to the United States over his crit­i­cism of the Saudi royal fam­ily and its in­flu­ence in that na­tion. He went to the em­bassy in Turkey to ob­tain copies of per­sonal pa­pers needed for a planned mar­riage to a Turk­ish cit­i­zen.

“If the re­ports of Ja­mal’s mur­der are true, it is a mon­strous and un­fath­omable act,” said Fred Hi­att, The Wash­ing­ton Post’s ed­i­to­rial page edi­tor.

Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance and pos­si­ble mur­der comes at nearly the same time when, in Bul­garia, the body of Vik­to­ria Mari­nova, a jour­nal­ist with TVN, was dis­cov­ered Oct. 6. Mari­nova, 30, had been raped, beaten and stran­gled, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports and Bul­gar­ian po­lice. Re­porters With­out Borders, an in­ter­na­tional group that tracks as­saults on jour­nal­ists, now lists 57 jour­nal­ists, 14 cit­i­zens work­ing in jour­nal­ism and four press aides as hav­ing been killed in 2018.

In its lat­est re­port, the non­par­ti­san hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tion Free­dom House notes that just 13 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives in na­tions where the press is con­sid­ered free.

You may well be ask­ing, “Why should I get an­gry over the as-yet un­de­ter­mined fate of a jour­nal­ist whose work, out­side of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. area, it’s likely I have not seen?”

Well, each time a Khashoggi dis­ap­pears un­der sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances or a Mari­nova is sav­agely killed, it di­min­ishes all of our free­doms; there’s tar­nish on our still-strong First Amend­ment pro­tec­tion for a free press.

It’s as sim­ple as that. We care be­cause we value free­dom — the free­dom to dif­fer with those in power or oth­ers in our so­ci­ety, the free­dom to speak or write our views, with­out the fear that some­day we may en­ter a gov­ern­ment build­ing on a sim­ple task and van­ish.

Yes, there’s great de­bate around what a free press means to­day in the United States. But even the most vit­ri­olic at­tacks of­ten have a call for jour­nal­ism’s es­sen­tial val­ues of fair­ness and ac­cu­racy. It’s those val­ues we de­fend in de­fend­ing jour­nal­ists, even those we don’t know.

As a na­tion, we must de­clare ev­ery time that an at­tack on jour­nal­ists any­where in the world — through vi­o­lence, threat or faux rule of law — is an at­tack on a core prin­ci­ple of our democ­racy. And we do not sur­ren­der those prin­ci­ples to tyranny, in­jus­tice or crim­i­nal acts.

What hap­pened to Ja­mal Khashoggi? His fam­ily should know. His col­leagues in the pro­fes­sion should know. Ev­ery per­son in ev­ery na­tion around the globe should know.

In the name of press free­dom and what it means to us as cit­i­zens of the United States and part of hu­man­ity, we not only ex­pect an­swers, we de­mand them.

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