Kal K Korff
It is a universal truism in life, that without a genuinely free and independent media, there can be no decent society; no true humanity. For the very denial of the right to freedom of speech, as epitomized by a free, vigorous, and independent press, is what distinguishes democracy from tyranny; liberty from slavery; prosperity from poverty; victory from self-inflicted defeat. Put simply, a free and independent press, is vital to humankind’s existence. There would be no moral humanity if there did not exist the arts and sciences, if there were no communications; if people are always and only told information that is controlled, instead of being empowered to explore it, and find the truth for themselves.
This is not about using language. This is about humanity and its very existence — even survival. Animals have languages, but they do not have the Internet, nor social media. Human beings, do. What we say or do not say, because we cannot, in the media, the information the global public consumes or is not even aware of, transforms us all. Journalists are part of this vital machinery.
As of this reporting, 68 journalists have been killed to date in 2018. To accurately understand any meaningful information from these killings, one must drill down into the “why” and “how” of these deaths both for this year and in past years. Put another way, these journalists did not die for no reason. Understanding why they died, is vital to helping solve this crisis.
Of the 68 journalists who have been killed so far this year to date, 23 of them, or roughly one-third, were specifically targeted and murdered because of their reporting. To put this alarming statistic into proper perspective, in contrast, out of these 68 deaths, only 9 journalists were killed covering an armed conflict such as the war in Afghanistan, despite being in an environment and at scene locations on the ground that are far more dangerous than those journalists who have been murdered via other targeted killings, many of which take place in large cities such as Moscow, or even in Bihar, India.
In 2006, the number of journalists who were killed hit triple digits for the first time, at 100. In 2016, 120 more journalists were killed, 89 of these journalists were murdered in targeted killings because of their reporting.
At its worst, in the year 2012, 133 journalists were killed. A staggering 92 of these 133 deaths, were the result of targeted killings. More ominously, it is the diversity of these murders when viewed geographically, which proves that the killing of journalists has morphed from being confined to what was once just only a handful of countries or regions, to now existing as a global problem, a genuine crisis. This has been true for years now.
Another trend that has been discovered where it concerns the killing of journalists, is the increasing barbarity of their executions. Instead of being shot and dying a quick death, as terrible as that is, they are often captured, or killed in ways that follow acts or torture, or even rape. One can easily Google on the Internet many examples of this. Since this is easily proven, such details will not be repeated here.
The recent murder of Bulgarian Investigative Journalist and TV Broadcaster Viktoriya Marinova, has of course been in the international news. In this case, however, there is an ironic twist. Here is what seems to have happened.
The day after Marinova made her TV broadcast announcing her investigation into massive corruption, where billions of dollars in funds from the European Union were being laundered in Bulgaria, her dead body was found in a park. Her face had been smashed, she was raped.
At first, one might think here is another example of a targeted killing, with the added element of rape involved just to “send a message” to anyone else (other reporters or investigators) who might be possibly thinking of investigating similar crimes and corruption or continuing Marinova’s probe.
Yet in the death of Marinova, this might not be the case. Although results so far are preliminary, the suspected killer is in the custody of German police as of this reporting, and is being extradited to Bulgaria where he will now stand trial. According to Prosecutor Bernd Kolkmeier, there has already been a partial confession. Kolkmeier told the press that, “He [the killer] admitted that in the morning of 7 October 2018, he was under strong influence of alcohol and drugs and he hit a previously unknown young woman in the face over a random argument in a park on the banks of the Danube river in Ruse, Bulgaria. He then lifted the woman up and threw her into a bush. He denies intent to kill as well as raping and robbing the woman.”
Kolkmeier claims that, “according to the suspect he did not previously know the victim and this would exclude a political motivation. He will be extradited to Bulgaria and the Bulgarian authorities will take over the investigation.”
Once this tragic killing is solved, if it indeed turns out to be true that the murderer never knew whom he was killing, nor targeting her and raping her because of her investigative reporting, one cannot be blamed for initially suspecting otherwise. For one can easily Google the morbid details of journalists around the world who have been kidnapped, brutally tortured, raped, their breasts or genitals cut off; burned with cigars, electrocuted — you name the type of torture one is able to inflict on a fellow human being, odds are there is at least one journalist out there who has been killed or harmed by such barbaric methods.
Marinova’s murder happened shortly before the latest crisis, yet another murder of a journalist, only this time it was another targeted killing, but an unprecedented one. Now we come to the current disappearance and apparent murder of Saudi journalist and dissident critic of the Saudi Royal Family, Jamal Khashoggi. This event has now understandably riveted the world, it has created an international diplomatic crisis, as it should.
If currently known information is correct, Jamal Khashoggi, a frequent critic especially of current Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), was brutally murdered in retaliation by the Saudis at their consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi may have even recorded his own torture and execution secretly on his Apple Watch, which means a digital record of this gruesome event exists on Apple’s iCloud service as of this reporting. Apple is now of course cooperating with investigators to help where it can. Ironically, it was Apple’s iCloud services which also helped Special Prosecutor and former FBI Director Robert Mueller indict former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort on money laundering and other criminal charges.
Accord to reports, Khashoggi was apparently lured to the Saudi consulate to collect paperwork regarding his pending marriage to a Turkish woman. After he arrived, he was taken prisoner, interrogated, tortured, brutally murdered; then apparently grossly cut to pieces “with a bone saw” where his body parts were then smuggled out of Turkey and whisked back to Saudi Arabia.
Apparently, as many as 15 members of his “hit squad,” which purportedly included members of the Saudi Royal Guard and even a forensic pathologist, entered Turkey shortly before Khashoggi arrived and they all left hours later. There is video footage of Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate, but no imagery of him ever leaving it, despite Saudi “denials” that he left peacefully on his own after successfully collecting his paperwork.
If only things were this simple. Once again, they’re not. While it is too early to say with certainty what exactly has happened to Khashoggi, these facts are certain.
Khashoggi is not “just another journalist,” he is in fact a very prominent Saudi figure who is also best described as an overall “media personality.” He has been critical of Crown Prince Mohammad Salman, yet Khashoggi himself is not the epitome of someone who promotes genuine democracy and western style reforms and moderations.
Instead, Khashoggi is pro Muslim Brotherhood, and was working on even starting a new political party to help with reforms in Saudi Arabia that comply with Sharia Law. Sharia Law and genuine democracy are not compatible, it’s not possible. These activities, plus his wife’s connections to the Qataris, who are enemies of the Saudis and largely aligned with Iran too often at times; marked Khashoggi as a “legitimate” target politically, to be hopefully persuaded at first to stop his actions and critical writings, or be killed if he did not accept the “generous” offer of the Saudi Crown Prince to work for his court as an “Advisor.” There were several attempts to convince Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, refused to do so, openly commenting that it would be “dangerous” to do something so stupid.
Now there are the additional issues in play here. Since Khashoggi was not “just another hack reporter at a newspaper,” although he had written pieces for the Washington Post, he has been widely published around the world for many years; he lived in self-imposed exile in the United States, temporarily at least, while he prepared to marry his Turkish finance.
His death has understandably sparked an international crisis. Turkey supports Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood and their advocates, Khashoggi was a welcomed guest; the fact his murder has apparently taken place on Turkish soil by the Saudis, is a diplomatic offense and an international crime. It doesn’t matter that it physically occurred inside the Saudi consulate.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad (MBS) as he is popularly known, has been both lauded and criticized for how he has been handling his “reforms” in his country. He has imprisoned or killed opponents, which is nothing new in Saudi society, he certainly is not the first Saudi Royal to do this, but with the world now deservedly and commendably condemning him for apparently ordering Khashoggi’s death, world governments and companies worldwide now have a decision to make.
Should Saudi Arabia be punished and held accountable for murdering and then gruesomely dismembering, after interrogating and torturing, Jamal Khashoggi? The answer to this question, undeniably, is yes. Not only should the Saudis be punished, they must be held accountable or all pretenses of morality and justice go out the window. The question now becomes, what to do? What to do?
If Khashoggi’s death is as is now being reported, how does one punish the guilty and what type of punishments are sufficient? Regardless, Khashoggi, if dead, he will never return to life. Since his murder was a state ordered targeted killing, authorized by the effective leader of Saudi Arabia, this escalates Khashoggi’s murder to new heights and levels of crisis. For it is one thing for local police to try to solve the targeted killing of a reporter who has been murdered by a local politician because of their reporting, versus the cold execution of a prominent international figure, Khashoggi in this case, whose death is ordered by an official head of state who has “friendly” ties with Turkey, the USA, Russia, and much of the world.
For American President Donald Trump, his dilemma in how to handle Khashoggi’s death has several fronts to it. First, it must be condemned, and Trump has done that, so have several members of Congress and the Senate. He has also repeated that he will “get to the bottom” of what really happened. Trump also said, “We don’t like it even a little bit. But whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country – knowing they have two very good alternatives [meaning to buy weapons from, Russia and China]. That would not be acceptable to me. I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country – they [the Saudis] are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country.” Trump is trying preserve the relationship he has with the Saudis, especially since his Son-In-Law Jared Kushner is close friends with MBS, while also trying to “hold them accountable.” One would think that Kushner could just ask his “buddy” MBS, “Hey, bro, WTF happened!?? Don’t try to fool me now, remember, I’m your Homeboy!” One wonders if the two have at least talked “mano-y-mano,” and will those recordings or transcripts ever be made public?
In the real world, what Trump hopes to achieve is not possible, unless this initiative comes directly from the Saudi government itself. For it is they who owe the world not only an explanation, but like all nations, must enact laws and enforce policies that preserve the rights and liberties of journalists around the world, the very act of which insures freedom and liberty for all. Yet the blunt truth is that in dictatorships, monarchies, under Communism and other Socialist types of governments like Venezuela or in the Middle East or even in Europe such as in Russia, whether it be in Pakistan or Communist China, indeed in too much of the world; there is no real, genuine free press, nor truly protected freedom of speech. Until this fact changes, more journalists will continue to get killed, as well as online bloggers and other Internet users.
Is it any wonder then, why it is that record numbers of journalists are being killed, record numbers of people around the world are so polarized over issues instead of using the incredible tools of communication that exist today to further peace and communications; foster understandings instead of furthering divisions; further free speech, civil liberties, too many people are at war with each other. It is literally hundreds of millions of people, if not over one billion now.
History reminds us that every war that has ever occurred, always starts and ends — with words. Journalists are on the frontlines of liberty and protecting freedom, especially free speech and democracy when permitted to do their job. Action must be taken to help stop the killing of journalists and other innocent media people.