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🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia’s war on journalism | The Listening Post (Lead)



It’s been more than a month since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which Riyadh has admitted was a “rogue operation”. But, given the ensuing geopolitical public relations disaster, one might have thought that the Saudi authorities dealing with the media would be on their best behaviour.

However, news has surfaced of another Saudi journalist, Turki bin Abdulaziz al-Jasser, who was arrested eight months ago and allegedly tortured to death while in detention. Al-Jasser ran what he thought was an anonymous account on Twitter, a platform that used to be a proxy public square for Saudis, but where an army of trolls has poisoned debate, harasses dissidents and spreads misinformation.

The mastermind of that campaign was Saud al-Qahtani, who worked behind the scenes as an enforcer for Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

As his boss conducted a charm offensive on the western media, al-Qahtani ensured journalists back home toed the line and critics stayed quiet. He was reportedly fired over his role in the Khashoggi killing, but the chilling effect of his work remains.

“He [Qahtani] is not only implicated in Khashoggi’s murder but in the kidnapping of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. He is a very powerful man, not only in terms of shaping public opinion but in executing Mohammad bin Salman’s decisions,” says Feras Abu Helal, editor-in-chief, Arabi21.

But besides al-Jasser, there are countless others who are missing or imprisoned for their online political activities, according to Ali al-Ahmed, director of The Institute for Gulf Affairs, and former Saudi political prisoner.

“There is a famous journalist, an opinion columnist, Turad al-Amri. He has disappeared and we don’t know if he is free or not. Ali al-Dhufairi, who worked for Al Jazeera Arabic has gone silent for over two years. We don’t know if he’s in jail or not. Israa al-Ghomgham, they want to send her to death because she actually used social media to write about the protest in the eastern province in Qatif.”

But even in the diaspora, Saudis are not “immune,” points out Sahar Khamis, associate professor at the University of Maryland. “They were trying to bug Omar Abdulaziz and get into his accounts and get into his social media platforms. And that’s why some of them are stopping their activism.”

In Riyadh, the latest official explanation of the Khashoggi murder places the blame on five allegedly rogue operatives who, according to the foreign minister, could face the death penalty. Saud al-Qahtani faces a travel ban, but nothing more.

Meanwhile, his boss MBS – who apparently was completely unaware of the operation that killed one of his most prominent critics – can be seen on Saudi television – meeting with investors, visiting soldiers wounded in the war in Yemen and smiling for selfies with Saudi children.

As the Saudi press is “going about their business of trying to show him as the responsible leader, statesman who has Saudi interests at heart”, says Chris Doyle, director of The Council for Arab-British Understanding, “I think it’s questionable whether this will work right now, certainly it won’t work internationally.”

Contributors

Ali al-Ahmed, The Institute for Gulf Affairs

Feras Abu Helal, editor-in-chief, Arabi21

Sahar Khamis, associate professor, University of Maryland

Chris Doyle, director, The Council for Arab-British Understanding

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27 comments

  1. Mister Bone Saw Fashist Murder.

  2. Trump was bought by Saudi money stained with Jamal's blood.

  3. stupid muz freedom of speech or freedom requires BLOOD ask americans about fake news

  4. I'm disgusted with the murderous Little Prince of Saudi Arabia. His father should be ashamed.

  5. If they can torture their own people imagine what poor Yemenis are facing. Shame on Saudi people to accept such inhuman acts by their rulers

  6. OPPRESSED and SUPPRESSED.

  7. These killing needs to stop! Alhamdulilla! Justice will come to MBS! AMEN!

  8. I can't wait until America finally elects a president that allows us to go to war with Saudi Arabia!

  9. War on Journalism? What about the creation of Wahhabism and the war on the West? Time to drop a bomb in these turds. Even the President of Iran can put on a suit. WTF can some Arab do except suck off camels? I mean seriously. "Caveman, here is 100 billion dollars." Caveman starts buying bigger rocks. Who thought this up?

  10. Number of journalists in Israeli prisons. ZERO!!!!!

  11. قال
    الشاعر ألمراكشي :
    ألإيمان
    ثم ألعبادة

    صحافي
    في عمق ألنيل

    تهمته
    كترة ألأقوال

    أليوم
    إختفى خاشوقجي

    والمسؤل
    أميرخليجي

    سلمان
    ولي ألعهد

    لايزكي
    ولايغدي

    إذاعهد
    وفى بألعهد

    قطع
    الرأس واليد

    ألخمر
    وحلمه بإ فنك

    قلبه
    يضرب دك دك

    وألأن
    أراد تغير مكة

    فأصابت
    جسمه ألحكة

    حارس
    ألكعبة في الضلام

    والإمام
    ليس هو ألمحامي

    بأمره
    شردت جميع ألقبائل

    والأطفال
    تموت ثحت ألقنابل

    اليمن
    إنكمشث إلى ميناء

    والذهب
    الأسود أحسن من الماء

    ألعمرة
    و الحج على كل أللسان

    و
    هذا مرفوض بدون إيمان

    قال
    ألجنرال ألسيسي

    ألجنة
    مفتوحة لأ مثالي

    حتى
    لبن سلمان والقحطاني

    وهذا
    يناقض مافي ألقرآن

  12. China is using Google to suppress dissidents….

  13. we are with saudi arabia and we are not with justice because we are businessmen.

  14. I agree we need a war on journalism. Journalism is another word of gossiping and Instigating.

  15. Not real Arabs, British created fake royal family.

  16. Americans will never forget the involvement of Saudi citizens in the 911 terror attacks!!

  17. STILL CONTINUE ILLING HAHA

  18. I say off with the prince's head !!!! End the the Saudi royalty and get rid of them !! Its enough that they killed alot of people from citizens , journalists and the people of Yemen and other crimes they committed. End this reign of terror !

  19. Sudi kralları siz kafirden başka bir şey değil sizin irana saldırıyorsunuz

  20. MBS will see his Karma and his children too.

  21. Americas allie KSA ie most undemocratic country in the world…There is nothing called democracy…Money matters…UD has shown…If North korea allows US military base and sell their rare earth on low price then Undemocratic and unhumane North korea will automatically become most human,democratic,best place to live in etc etc…US and westerners hypocrary has no limitation

  22. Come-on Aljazeera. You aren’t doing any good. We have heard so many times. He is not only the person who have been killed

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