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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Opinion

Trump’s support of Saudi prince is an insult to free press


Jamal Khashoggi, an avid critic of the Saudi government, arrived at the country’s consulate in Istanbul. Shortly after, he was murdered. Turkish officials have provided evidence that his death was orchestrated by Saudi agents, and Trump’s responses in support of Saudi Arabia have garnered due backlash. | Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ user: William Graham

 

The brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has sparked outrage against Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, known as MBS. Trump’s initial response to back MBS and downplay the murder of a dissident journalist is a critical blow for the free press.  

The self-exiled journalist was an avid critic of the Saudi royal family including the heir apparent, MBS. The gruesome murder plot allegedly included a 15 member squad who flew in a private jet with a bone saw earlier that day. Khashoggi was systematically tortured and dismembered in a chillingly brazen act.

President Trump’s response has been to downplay the gravity of the situation, saying Khashoggi was murdered by “rogue killers”, effectively backing MBS’s morbid act.

Trump’s initial reaction will send shockwaves through the world, thus making the current climate more dangerous for journalists who actively criticize the status quo of undemocratic governments and demonstrating that the President of the United States can be bought.

The President has since conceded Saudi involvement, expressing confidence in intelligence reports that point to a high-level Saudi role. He has stopped short of saying MBS was responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

The damage is done.

Impact of presidential response

The world looks to the U.S. for moral authority. Trump’s priority lies in the alliance with Saudi Arabia and the monetary gain the U.S. receives through standing with our Middle Eastern ally. Effectively, the President is trading the country’s morality for greed, unaware of the consequences to American foreign policy.

Trump has signaled to the Saudi government and MBS that he can be bought by the highest bidder, citing the $100 billion arms deal as more important than the death of a journalist. In doing so, adversary countries and allies alike now know that America, the world’s self-imposed morality compass, will allow for inadequate behavior if there is some sort of monetary compensation.

The result of Khashoggi’s killing reinforces MBS’s power inside his country and emboldens other individuals to commit crimes that silence critics and crush the freedom of the press. America’s beliefs in freedom of speech and freedom of the press should be enough to condemn the killing of a journalist.

Trump’s inadequate response reinforces the idea that he does not value freedom of speech when it criticizes governments. This is a sentiment he has been quick to display at home, calling the United States press “dangerous and sick.”

Journalists like Khashoggi play an important role in undemocratic states in speaking out against the government. Khashoggi believed in the freedom of the press and its importance to bring freedom into Saudi Arabia.

His last Washington Post column was a plea for freedom of the press in Saudi Arabia.

The response from the White House creates serious doubt in United States’ commitment to human rights and the freedom of the press.

Trump continues to emphasize the value of the Saudi alliance to American military contractors for economic reasons. If Saudi Arabia faces no consequences, then we can no longer call ourselves a country who believes in the freedom of the press, human rights and justice.

At the very least, the President should not defend leaders who might have been involved  by painting Khashoggi’s murder as a rogue killing. This was a premeditated murder intended to silence his voice.

Khashoggi, an American resident  and journalist, was tortured and murdered by the Saudi government for criticizing the royal family. Trump should not insult the intelligence of the American people and lie to us.

If we say nothing now, then we have no right to condemn undemocratic actions in other parts of the world. We become a nation of hypocrites who are willing to turn the other way if an ally is the one committing brutal acts.

Our morality as a nation cannot be selective to those who are our allies and those who are not. We lose credibility and legitimacy. Those who have done wrong must face appropriate consequences.

Opinion columnist Janet Miranda is a marketing junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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