Jamal Khashoggi stands for many more silenced journalists

Jamal Khashoggi: The name of this Saudi journalist, who wrote for Washington Post and had been residing in the US, has headlined the news this month after he disappeared into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Political circumstances have brought his death, confirmed by Turkish authorities this week, to international attention.

It is a tragedy whenever a writer loses his life in connection to the things that he or she writes; as America’s attention is riveted on the death of this one writer, we remember that hundreds of journalists, creative writers, cartoonists, and other artists are threatened, harmed, or imprisoned each year. The number is growing, and many suffer or even die in obscurity.

So far, 43 journalists have been killed in 2018, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists; 262 were jailed in 2017. PEN International reports that 217 writers (including journalists, poets, songwriters, playwrights, bloggers, and publishers) were killed, disappeared, or detained in 2017.

Ithaca City of Asylum and the network of like-minded cities of which we are a part, the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) identifies writers who face threats because of their work, helps them reach safety, protects them as they continue to write, and advocates for a world in which this basic human right—freedom of expression—is upheld.

Poignantly, Khashoggi’s last column in the Washington Post proclaimed that what Arab countries need now is free expression. Published on October 17, after his disappearance, the essay is a powerful statement of the need for a free press and unfettered artists, and against regimes that silence both individual voices and opposing parties through force.

“The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power,” he wrote in the piece. “During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar.”

Ithaca City of Asylum and the network of like-minded cities of which we are a part, the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) identifies writers who face threats because of their work, helps them reach safety, protects them as they continue to write, and advocates for a world in which this basic human right—freedom of expression—is upheld.

The Washington Post, the column points out, translates his articles about democracy in the United States and other western countries and publishes them in Arabic, giving people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, and other Arab countries living under authoritarian regimes access to the western world.

Tragically, this is the last column Jamal Khashoggi published in any language. In a note published with the column, Karen Attiah, the Washington Post’s Global Opinions editor wrote: “This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for.”

 

 

 

 

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