A Turkish police officer walks past a picture of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Oct. 2, 2019, in Istanbul. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Saturday marks the third anniversary of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who contributed columns to The Post. It is a good moment to reflect on the duty to speak out against authoritarian rule. Our late colleague wrote on Sept. 18, 2017, that he hadn’t protested initially when some friends in Saudi Arabia were wrongly arrested, but then decided he must. “I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot.” For his principled stand, Khashoggi was drugged and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad.

Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince known as MBS, has continued his ruthless ways, throwing dissidents and activists in prison. Meanwhile, five of the Saudi killers were tried and sentenced to death, but the sentences were commuted to 20 years, and they are reportedly living in a luxury compound near Riyadh. Despite a CIA conclusion that MBS approved the killing, President Biden decided not to hold him accountable and the United States continues to do business with the kingdom, including a recent visit by national security adviser Jake Sullivan to meet MBS in Riyadh.

There’s been no justice for Khashoggi, and there are darkening clouds on the horizon for others who would speak out. Despots are trampling over rights in many corners of the globe. A democracy movement in Hong Kong was destroyed, a democratic election subverted in Belarus, civil society crushed in Russia, the Uyghur Muslims imperiled by cultural genocide in China, grass-roots protest suppressed in Cuba, civilian rule overthrown in Myanmar — and we could go on. The Arab Spring that brought so much promise a decade ago has largely collapsed into old-school authoritarianism.

This grim outlook will confront Mr. Biden when he convenes a summit for democracy in December. He has often vowed to put human rights and liberty at the center of his foreign policy. But it is going to take more than speeches and sanctions to turn this tide. A serious attempt to defend and rejuvenate democracy is going to require new tools and fresh thinking.

More should be done to harness technology to enable citizens to speak out and expose the ruinous, kleptocratic ways of strongmen. The dictators have been effective in suppressing free speech, but recent examples have demonstrated the power of online video and social media to fight back. A channel on the messaging app Telegram galvanized protest in Belarus against the stolen election in August 2020; a 49-minute Facebook video set off nationwide anti-government protests on July 11 in Cuba; Alexei Navalny has spent more than half a year in prison, but his video exposing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s secret palace has been viewed more than 119 million times on YouTube. Surely there are possibilities for more.

Jamal Khashoggi was acutely aware of the difficulty of this battle, and of its singular importance. The best way to honor his memory is to relentlessly pursue the freedom he sought for Saudi Arabia — and build it everywhere.