For those who do not follow the politics in Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, you would not know Jamal Khashoggi, until recently. Jamal Khashoggi was one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent journalists, who, later in life became an advocate for reform in his country. Khashoggi was close to the Saudi Royal family for decades, even served as an advisor. The writer had nearly 3 million followers on Twitter and was described by Britain’s Spectator newspaper as “the most famous political pundit in the Arab world”. But now, his name is taken in every household posthumously, not for his work, but for the gruesome way he is believed to have been killed at the hands of the Saudi operatives.In recent years he did not favor the Crown Prince Salman over his criticism of ruling the Kingdom. He criticised the poor state of the country under the 33 year old’s reign. Khashoggi wanted better for his society, but could not overlook the abuses, repressions and mistakes of the Government.
In an interview Khashoggi said, “Saudi Arabia is a country with 20 million population. Two-thirds of them are young under 30 years of age. Mohammed Bin Salman is putting all issues economic and religion on fast forward.”
Khashoggi first visited the Turkish Saudi assembly on September 28, 2018 to obtain a verified document required for him to marry his Turkish fiancé. He was told to return on 2nd October. Turkish officials say that in the early hours of that morning, a team of suspected Saudi agents arrived in Istanbul on a private jet and checked into two hotels near the Consulate. A second group arrived later that day. CCTV showed the suspected agents entering the Consulate around noon on October 2. Khashoggi arrived at the Consulate an hour later. Turkish officials claim that the journalist was tortured and killed inside, and that his body was then decapitated. It was also revealed that during the interrogation that he was brutally tortured where his fingers were cut and was decapitated.
As much as 40 journalists have been killed in 2018 and Jamal Khashoggi’s death, in particular, has raised questions against Saudi Governments treatment towards its journalists. Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. The regime relies on extensive surveillance, criminalization of dissent and appeals to sectarianism. Women and religious minorities face extensive discrimination in law and in practice. Moreover, working conditions for the large expatriate labour force are often exploitative. In Arab countries, journalists face a barbed maze fraught with intimidation, demotion, incarceration, and sometimes even death. The most common way that Arab governments stifle investigative reporting is by applying financial pressure. Arab states are intimately involved in the economic well-being of many Arab news organizations, so they apply pressure in several ways, most notably through ownership or advertising. Arab society is often either sceptical of the changes or not comfortable with them. Thus, journalists often find themselves trapped between state control and societal mistrust.
It can be said that the lack of investigative journalism in Saudi Arabia is partly due to government interference and domination of the media. Furthermore, there is a lack of clarity in media law, which creates difficulties for journalists wanting to do investigative reporting. Hence, there are three main obstacles that hinder investigative reporting in Saudi Arabia- political factors tied to the government’s management and domination of the media, the absence of investigative sections and investigative journalists at Saudi newspapers, and the lack of clarity in media laws.
Government influence on the press is considered a significant factor in investigative journalism. Sometimes, the journalist’s efforts in identifying the root causes of the problem are in vain because of this.The practice of investigative journalism is dangerous to those working in Saudi media. In addition, the lack of legal clarity in news media has led to the presence of a state of fear among reporters and editors. Government officials are given free rein over newspapers.
In the Middle East, the political system has prevented the media from becoming a tool for advancing the interests of the public. Instead, most of the time, news media act as a mouthpiece for the government to the extent that the public has lost hope of the media ever holding government officials accountable for their actions.The death of Jamal Khashoggi has brought forth the danger faced by the reporters and journalists who cannot raise their voice against its government even if it is not functioning properly. And Khashoggi was a victim of such heinous, unilateral, abrupt and unconstitutional death which oppressed his voice against the Government.Despite political obstacles, if Saudi newspapers adopt a truly dedicated investigative approach, fuelled by modern communication technology that includes online social media, it might lead to a better communication landscape.
Picture Source: Express.co.uk