His name is Jamal Khashoggi, and he is dead. According to reports, he was murdered. Turkey claims to have evidence of the atrocity. Of course, the entire world, along with the poor man’s fiancé, is awaiting answers. Khashoggi was a fierce critic of the ruling Saudi Arabia family, and was essentially ‘persona non grata’ in the desert Kingdom. In fact, he’d been living in self-imposed exile in the United States because . . . well, he spoke the truth . . . “without fear or favour, and without worrying who feel one way or another. . .” Anyway, if the reports are to be believed, Mr. Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to get some documents needed for his upcoming wedding, and never walked out. The videotape shows the good journalist entering the embassy. There is no video record of him leaving.
To say that this is a bold and brazen assault on the press (Mr. Khashoggi was a columnist with the Washington Post) is putting it mildly. And if the Saudi thugs, allegedly acting at the behest of the ruling regime, are allowed to get away with this outrage, then despotic regimes all over the world, regimes that despise those that dare shine a light into the nether reaches of their corrupt governments, will be emboldened. Make no mistake!
Consider. A little more than a month ago, two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were sentenced to seven years in prison in the banana republic called Myanmar for reporting on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims who were being displaced and murdered by the despicable Myanmar government. Despite international condemnation of the initial arrest back in December of last year, and calls by “Press freedom advocates, the United Nations, the European Union and [freedom-championing] countries like the United States, Canada and Australia for the men to be acquitted . . .,” the Myanmar government basically told the world to take a hike.
Of course, while we are not surprised at the cowardly actions of the Myanmar regime and others of like ilk, we are deeply disappointed that Donald Trump, the putative leader of the free world, is a bitter and intransigent foe of the press. Indeed, he routinely refers to the distinguished NEW YORK TIMES as “The failing New York Times,” points to journalists at his press conferences and besmirches their professionalism and character by labeling them as “Dishonest.” And yes, he dismisses any press coverage that is unflattering to him as “Fake news!” In fact, he has used that phrase so often, much to the delight of dictators and tyrants, that it has become part of the worldwide authoritarian lexicon. Yes, the Russians, Chinese, Syrians and other sketchy regimes have appropriated a cue from the good president and taken to branding unfavourable reporting with his pet phrase. Way to go, Mr. President! Nice job!
No surprisingly, the Caribbean is not immune from the increasing tendency to disparage the Fourth Estate – the press and news media. Indeed, according to Reporters Without Borders, “More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion.” For shame! And the thing is that, much like their mentor to the north, they serve up red meat to their supporters by threatening to close down opposition and independent media in their countries and chuckling and chortling at the struggles of the press to shine a light and give a voice to the voiceless and hold governments to account. Whatever happened to Thomas Jefferson’s solemn declaration, “Where the press is free . . . all are safe?” At the rate that we are going, we are not safe, and we ought to be afraid! Very afraid!
The thing though is that, notwithstanding the resolve of tyrannical regimes to shut down the press by any means necessary, media workers remain equally resolved to “Let there be light!” Just ask Algernon ’Serpent’ Watts of Observer radio’s, Serpent in the Snakepit. He has boldly declared that even if he has to broadcast from the trunk of his vehicle, he will not be silenced. Au contraire, he will forever be “Speaking truth to power!” Meanwhile, we concur with King Short Shirt when he declares in NO POWER, that no power can extinguish a people’s fight for freedom of expression!