International investigative journalists often face a feat that puts themselves in danger, and often it is their intrinsic drive to seek the truth that may land them in sticky situations. Other instances, we see civilians or governments lash out – take Jo Cox a British journalist murdered in cold blood for her defence of the European Union and left-wing stance.
However, the death of one journalist shook the world and exposed the downfall of world command. Almost one year later, his brutal murder on 2 October, 2018 still monopolises aspects of mainstream media and appears to have challenged governmental perspectives. This was, of course, the death of Washington Post correspondent, Jamal Khashoggi.
Recent reports of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) stating he feels responsible for the death of the journalist because it “happened under my watch” are set to air in a PBS documentary on the anniversary of Khashoggi’s death leading to an exploration of the whole case.
Events Surrounding Khashoggi’s Death
The Washington Post columnist had previously reported stories including the rise of Osama Bin Laden and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for Saudi news organisations. He was reported to have served the Saudi government and was a close associate to the royal family. However, the ties became broken and Khashoggi went into self-imposed exile in 2017. He soon joined the Washington Post where he wrote a monthly column in which he criticised policies of MBS.
The journalist was last seen alive on 2 October, 2018 entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul trying to obtain marriage papers for him and his fiancée. Khashoggi was supposedly killed inside the consulate where his body was removed and brutally dismembered, with the remains of his body still missing.
Saudi Arabia strongly denied any involvement in the killing for up to two weeks after its occurrence, whilst Saud al-Qathani, a former royal advisor, allegedly gave orders over Skype to the killers in a report by Reuters.
Many competing narratives clouded the death with blame initially being placed on rogue operatives and then on al-Qahtani as mentioned. The UN also published a report in which they held MBS liable for the death stating he had violated several international laws and “the death was met with few responses – legally, politically or diplomatically.”
Then on the 3rd January, 11 suspects were put on trial in connection with the murder in undisclosed proceedings where Saudi prosecutors called for the death penalty on five out of the 11 suspects.
Early September, Turkey’s intelligence agency obtained a recording of the journalist moments before his death detailing his last words. Jamal Khashoggi can be heard pleading with his killers to not cover his mouth because he had asthma, stating: “You’ll suffocate me.”
The recording was published in Turkey’s Sabah newspaper where a team of Saudi officials flew from Riyadh to Istanbul to get the 59-year-old journalist. A member of the hit squad is then heard saying: “Help us, so that we can help you. Because in the end, we will take you to Saudi Arabia. And if you don’t help us, you know what will happen in the end.”
He was also instructed to write a message to his son reassuring him that if he had not heard from him, he was okay, to which Khashoggi refused stating: “I write nothing.”
The Aftermath of Khashoggi’s Death
Khashoggi’s death undeniably ignited an international uproar. The brutal killing tarnished the Crown Prince’s image and thus damaged Saudi Arabia’s oil trade alliances with the market dropping rapidly. Many countries and individuals held MBS liable for the murder whilst he continues to claim no part in the killing.
Perhaps it can be argued that MBS’ new statement is simply a moral one in efforts to improve setbacks Saudi Arabia has faced since the incident such as the targeting of their oil facilities and the UAE taking a step back in their role in the Saudi-coalition on the war on Yemen.
The killing was globally denounced destroying some of Saudi Arabia’s alliances with other countries and had a great geopolitical impact in the media remaining in headlines for up to a month after his death.
Many western countries re-evaluated their relationship with Saudi Arabia, with many keeping their distance. The US, Canada, France and the UK levied sanctions against all Saudis associated with the murder bar MBS of course, whilst Germany, Denmark and Finland cancelled arms deals.
Trump notably described the egregious act as the “worst cover-up in history” and maintained a cool relationship with the country for business purposes.
The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the murder “premeditated” and in “cold blood” urging for the perpetrators to be tried and sentenced in Turkey.
Politico reports Erdogan saw the killing as a chance to propel Turkey’s regional position and rebrand his tainted image, through his great displays of morality.
Overall there is a worsening media climate as number of journalist killings is rising, yet this one garnered the attention of the world in a way that no other has. The killing exposed the amoral nature of politics where such gruesome acts are carried out, but also the commercial aspect where the impact of such a brutal act came down international business, rather than the fight for justice.
One year later and there is no doubt that a global obsession remains of what happened to journalist, Jamal Khashoggi and what it continues to means for the future of Saudi Arabia and international journalists.