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Turn sadness of Jamal's death into outrage against attacks against all journalists

29 October 2018

Our tribute to Jamal Khashoggi must unite everyone in outrage at the world-wide attacks on journalists and the climate of climate of fear, intimidation and censorship many media workers experience at the hands of the state, Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, told a gathering to celebrate the life of the Saudi columnist   -- and protest about his violent death.

Michelle began by offering her condolences to Hatice Cengiz, Jamal’s fiancé, and his family on behalf of all members of the National Union of Journalists in the UK and Ireland. She said as well as a personal loss, his killing represented a blow to everyone who valued journalism and press freedom, including many of our colleagues facing danger around the world.

Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi Arabian regime, was killed on October 2 at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey. The Saudi authorities initially denied they had anything to do with his disappearance before eventually claiming he had died in a fistfight with officials who then removed his body.

The event, hosted by Middle East Monitor, included a distinguished list of speakers, including Hatice Cengiz, and journalists from Al Jazeera, the Guardian, Telegraph, human rights organisations and Parliament.

According to the grim tally kept by the International Federation of Journalists 73 journalists and media staff have been killed to date this year - in the past six years more than 600 lives have been lost. Nine in ten of those cases remain unpunished.

Michelle Stanistreet said:

“The current spectacle of world leaders targeting journalists and their work is something that should unite us in outrage. That media workers are being used as pawns in geo-political game-playing or exploited as political leverage is disgraceful and unacceptable. The global journalistic community today faces an international climate that is ever more febrile and increasingly fraught with danger.

“An American president who has dubbed journalists the ‘enemies of the people’. A Saudi regime that believes the world will suspend disbelief and allow itself to be hoodwinked as it repeatedly changes its story, delivers up some fall-guys and banks on business continuing as normal. A Turkish president speaking out against a terrible act, whilst journalists languish in Turkish prisons, the internet is censored, broadcasters are closed down and arrest warrants have led media workers to flee the country.”

She said the brazen act of killing Jamal Khashoggi had shone a light on the daily diet of threats, intimidation, assaults and killings that are served up to so many journalists and media workers:

“It puts into sharp relief the shocking reality of state-sponsored impunity that proliferates – not least because of the many state agents either actively involved in the repression of journalists and journalism, or who with a nod and a wink sit back and allow such acts of brutality and murder to go unchecked and mostly unpunished.”

In the Yemen, 35 journalists have died since 2011, eight this year including Zaki al-Saqaldi a reporter gunned down in front of his house. Another 14 have been kidnapped or detained. “Their lives and their freedom have been the price they have paid for trying to bring to the world’s attention the terrible consequences of this so-called ‘forgotten war’- a geo-political battleground in which all parties involved in the conflict have united in their efforts to silence the voices of media workers,” she said.

On Thursday, the eve of the UN Day to end impunity for crimes against journalists, NUJ members will be leading a vigil outside of the Saudi Arabian embassies in London and in Dublin to remember Jamal and demand justice for him and all journalists murdered for simply doing their job.

The union will be demanding an end to impunity and for all governments to give a commitment to ensuring safety and justice for journalists and to support the International Federation of Journalists campaign for a UN Convention for the Protection of Journalists.

Hatice Cengiz, fiance of Jamal Khashoggi
       Hatice Cengiz ©nuj

Hatice Cengiz gave a moving speech, calling for the body of her fiancé to be returned to her. She recalled the day, on  October 2, when she saw him enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. "If only I knew that there were blood thirsty, evil people waiting inside the consulate for my Jamal, I would have done all I could to prevent him from entering," she said.

She described him as a gentle, caring, loving and giving man. She said: "He was a patriot. He believed in democracy, freedom and dignity in his country and beyond." 

She added: "I am deeply grateful for the solidarity of the people all over the world. I am, however, disappointed with the actions of the leadership in many countries, particularly in the US president  Trump, who should help reveal the truth and ensure justice be served. He should not pave the way for a cover up of my fiancé's murder. Let's not let money taint our consciences and compromise our values."

Tags: , jamal khashoggi, impunity, ifj, journalists arrested, press freedom, media freedom, censorship, saudi arabia, turkey, donald trump, hatice cengiz