Jamal Ahmed Khashoggi’s body was apparently cut into pieces. Turkish authorities claim to have video of the gruesome murder. US president Donald Trump has promised “severe punishment” if it turns out the Saudi government was responsible.
How do I know this? Because I was watching the news in a pub in Broken Hill. It was one of the first stories on Channel 7 news. No doubt the gruesome nature of the murder will spread the story far and wide, and will ensure that we will all forget certain facts.
Firstly, we will forget that Turkey is no friend of journalists. Last week in Melbourne I saw a documentary screened by a dissident religious group in Turkey (the Gulen movement) which the government blames for the recent coup attempt. The documentary showed how the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has created an environment of fear in which more than 180 news outlets have been shut down and at least 120 editors and reporters have been detained or forced to leave the country. Zaman, Turkey’s largest selling newspaper and linked to the Gulen movement, was taken over by the government in March 2016. The Australian edition of Zaman continues to be published.
Donald Trump is also no friend of journalists. In February 2017 he tweeted that some media outlets are enemies of the American people. He has publicly abused journalists and popularised the term “fake news”. He has also championed colourful conspiracy mongers such as Alex Jones.
It’s true that neither Erdogan nor Trump have murdered and dismembered journalists. But Trump’s remarks are perhaps the first time in living memory that a US President has threatened Saudi Arabia with anything resembling punishment. Despite near unanimous agreement by US lawmakers to remove sovereign immunity allowing victims to litigate against the Saudi government, US presidents have sought to place obstacles so as not to risk America’s relationship with its closest Middle East partner after Israel.