Jamal Khashoggi wrote of the need for a free press and of Arab governments’ attempts to stifle free speech in his final column, Business Insider is reporting.
Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor at The Washington Post, wrote on Wednesday night that she had been in possession of Khashoggi’s final column for some period of time, but that she and her team had been sitting on it until they heard from Khashoggi again.
“I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post.”
Perhaps aptly, considering the circumstances of his disappearance and likely death (more on that in a few paragraphs), the Saudi journalist’s last column was about Arab governments’ concerted attempts at stifling free speech.
Entitled “What The Arab World Needs Most Is Free Expression” and published by The Post on Wednesday night, Khashoggi’s final editorial mourns the lack of free speech not only in his native Saudi Arabia but across the Arab world as a whole.
The Saudi journalist writes that, across the Arab world, only one country – Tunisia – is considered by Freedom House, which ranks the freedom of the press across the world, country by country, to be free. The rest are considered either “partly free” or “not free.”
“As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives.”
Khashoggi also criticizes foreign governments’ collective response to Arab censorship, which often includes imprisoning journalists and even torturing and murdering them, with a collective expression of outrage and then a collective shrug.
“These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community.”
Khashoggi may have himself been a victim of the very apparatus that he says persecutes press freedom in the Arab world. The Saudi citizen, who had been living in the United States, is believed to have been murdered, possibly tortured first, by agents acting on orders from the Saudi government.
Khashoggi was last seen going into the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The Turkish government claims to have audio and video evidence that he was tortured and murdered by Saudi agents inside.