Three weeks ago, prominent Saudi reporter and columnist Jamal Khashoggi entered his country’s Consulate in Istanbul, in order to process some documents related to his upcoming marriage to a Turkish lady. He never came out of the Consulate building. When the Turkish sources began to spread gruesome details about his murder inside the compounds of the consulate at the hands of Saudi agents, the world’s attention was focused on this matter and continues to be so.
The government of Saudi Arabia first denied any involvement with Khashoggi’s “disappearance”. After two weeks, it finally announced that the journalist was “accidentally killed” during a fist fight in the consulate. The Saudi statement added that the actual head of the country, the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was unaware of the matter. Naturally, these explanations were not convincing and no one was willing to believe them.
According to an international organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2018, 48 journalists were killed around the world, and in most cases these killings went unpunished.
The tragic death of the prominent journalist also came to focus attention on the leaders of two other countries, who, with their words and deeds, have greatly damaged press freedoms and journalists’ security in recent years.
The first being Turkey’s President Erdogan, who used this murder to score points with the Saudi government, with whom it has regional conflicts. Erdogan was not worried about the fate of a journalist, rather he was trying to appear as such, and impress the domestic and international public opinion. It is known fact that in recent years, especially after the failed coup attempt in 2016, Erdogan’s policies have greatly eroded press freedoms in Turkey. Currently, Turkish prisons are filled with hundreds of journalists, and many newspapers and other media outlets are closed.
Attention was also focused on the American President Donald Trump who, since coming to power calls all information critical of him as “fake news”, and borrowing a phrase from the Stalinist era, he calls well known journalists as the “enemy of the people, making them the target of the extremist elements among his supporters and endangering the safety and lives of the reporters, who are there to cover his events.
In the past, America served as an example to the world as the defender of freedom of the press. Nowadays, the standards are reversed. An American leader is giving green light to dictators in other countries to act harshly against those who criticize them.
It’s true that reporters in the United States are not subjected to state persecution, because of the strong institutions that govern this country, but, Trump calling the American journalists as the “enemy of the people,” is endangering the lives of Khashoggi’s everywhere.
Since this column first appeared in our print publication, other events shook the nation. Former presidents, congressmen and other Democratic party critics of Trump were targeted with mail bombs. A suspect was arrested, who appears to be a supporter of Trump and who has attended many of his campaign rallies. On Saturday, a Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh PA. was attacked by an anti-semite nationalist, killing 11 worshipers and injuring many others. On both occasions Trump was unable to show empathy toward the victims.
It is time for Trump to stop using divisive and incendiary language, first of all stop calling the press as the “enemy of the people” and start showing some presidential leadership.