Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and columnist for The Washington Post, was reported missing by his fiance on October 2, 2018. Four days later, The Washington Post reported sources that claim Turkish investigators believe that Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by a team of Saudi agents (Fahim, 2018.) Although they offered no specific evidence to backup the account, nearly ten months have passed, and there have been multiple reports released that recount the details leading up to Khashoggi’s visit to the Saudi consulate that day. As more lines are drawn, some narratives shape that Khashoggi’s lifelong work as a prominent Saudi journalist may have led to his death (Lee, Bennett 2019.)
Khashoggi’s columns mostly appeared in the Global Opinions section of The Post and oftentimes shared his criticisms of the Saudi establishment. He wrote opinion pieces that explained his need to leave Saudi Arabia so that he could have the freedom to voice his perspective. In some pieces he even directly criticized the Crown Prince of Saudi for his repressive leadership (Khashoggi 2017.) Following Khashoggi’s alleged death, The Post released additional pieces in which Khashoggi had further relayed his growing concern for his own safety by publishing some of his opinion pieces (Usero 2018.)
"He wrote opinion pieces that explained he needed to leave Saudi Arabia so that he could have the freedom to voice his opinion."
Although there are some details still in flux as to what happened on October 2nd, it’s unspeakable stories like this one that magnify the importance of press freedom around the world. Unfortunately, this story is one of many that shape a narrative of journalists that may have been killed, jailed, or gone missing in retribution for their work.
It demonstrates that all countries are not permitted the same liberties that we are here in the U.S. and that those liberties can very quickly be taken for granted. It’s also worth mentioning that the U.S. only ranks 48 out of 180 in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders suggesting that 27 other countries are considered to have more press freedom than we do (RSF 2019.) Note that this is down 3 points from #45 in the 2018 index.
Almost 25 years ago, the United Nations declared May 3rd World Press Freedom Day to help celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, defend the media and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty (UN.)
It’s days like today that we should reflect on the impact and important role that journalism has in our society and remember courageous reporters like Jamal Khashoggi who may have faced the ultimate sacrifice for seeking his truth.
It’s days like today that we are particularly thankful for organizations like the News Literacy Project that are helping to shed light on the important role that journalism plays in our society and about press freedoms around the world.
Roughly five years ago The News Literacy Project approached Actual Size about designing and developing their learning platform Checkology. Checkology’s mission is to empower students to learn to navigate the digital landscape and master news literacy skills. Checkology has become such an important tool for students in classrooms across the country and on World Press Freedom Day we wanted to take some time to recognize the valuable work of their team. We should note that the content of this blog does not reflect the views of The News Literacy Project or Checkology.