A testing time for all journalists

  • Murder victim: Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

    Murder victim: Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi


The world faces countless challenges today, with powerful nations locked in confrontation over issues from economic development to human rights, along with freedom that would enable truth to be revealed — even when it affects global diplomacy or is a threat to an international image.

With oceans of allegations and counter-allegations raging in electronic communication wizardry, the task of journalists can become a nightmare in striving to cut through reams of material in the search for truth.

There are times when facts and falsehoods can be so intermingled that getting at the truth requires the highest skill of this noble profession. And even with that, journalists could be at a great risk from powerful people who are prepared to use deadly force to avoid exposure.

However, even though many journalists have lost their lives, especially in dictatorial systems, there remain no shortage of these brave men and women willing to risk their lives to keep people better informed.

Making matters far worse was the tirade by Donald Trump that the American media, whom he described as the enemy of the people, engaged in fake news designed to discredit his presidency. His relentless attacks on reporters who dared to question him played well with his supporters, but caused many in America, and around the world, to wonder if democracy was the real target.

After all, the first step for dictators is to stamp out the free press.

In what seems a new age of vicious attacks on the media, journalists worldwide should lock arms and send a clear message to leaders everywhere that, whatever they do or say, they will be subject to scrutiny in the interest of keeping truth as a key element in serving the people.

Journalists must never back away from any event, fearing that what they might uncover could damage this or that group. Truth will always be bigger than the policy of any country. This is why the recent murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist who was residing in the United States, and a contributor to The Washington Post, has become such a significant issue.

A journalist has lost his life for being critical of the Saudi Government. The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, vehemently denied any involvement with the incident, which took place in the Turkish embassy.

This is what journalists were confronted with. Khashoggi was observed via a security camera calmly entering the embassy, but was never seen again. The free press knew something happened in there, but had to wait for investigators to determine why a man would vanish without a trace.

Journalists seldom jump to conclusions without supporting facts. It soon became clear that a team, traced to Saudi Arabia, were waiting inside, and audio recordings would reveal later that Khashoggi was brutally killed. There were also reports that the body was dismembered.

Reporters knew this was going to be a highly sensitive situation, as Saudi Arabia is a close ally of the United States, with major economic ties. While the US administration was reluctant to point a finger at the Saudi Government, leading political figures, including Republicans and Democrats, were demanding to know the truth behind this brutal murder of a Saudi journalist who was in the embassy to secure marriage papers.

Central intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel, after hearing a recording of the tragic embassy event in Turkey, concluded after additional information that there was no doubt that the killing was on the orders of the highest authority of the Saudi Government. When US senators were briefed on their findings, one stated the Crown Prince would be found guilty within 30 minutes if placed on trial. Another said he was convinced the Saudi Government was involved, and he had no intention of supporting a government that would murder a journalist.

Reporters usually caught up in the centre of such explosive developments are committed to truth, and must never be seen to sugar coat any part of a story to protect either side in a dispute.

Unless justice is placed above economic interest between America and Saudi Arabia in handling what much of the world views as a horrific crime against the profession of journalism, there will be many questions over whether in today’s world, financial power is bigger than the life of a journalist.

Without proper justice for those accountable for this vicious murder, journalists operating in areas under dictatorial control will be in more danger. While it is a testing time for journalists in various regions, it is also a testing time for nations with economic power to conduct their affairs in a manner that protects values such as press freedom, decency and respect for justice.

The world still awaits the outcome of a deeply troubling event between two economic giants, America and Saudi Arabia, and whether the story of what happened will ever be fully told.

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Published Dec 8, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 9, 2018 at 11:43 am)

A testing time for all journalists

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