From Washington Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan:
On behalf of The Washington Post, I’m honored to receive this year’s leadership award—especially in the presence of so many giants of our profession and inspiring examples of courageous journalism.
I’d originally prepared some remarks about great journalism and what the future may hold. Instead, I’d like to use my time this evening to call attention to a great journalist who is not here—and what I believe we should be doing about it.
Thirty days ago, Jamal Khashoggi was lured into a death trap. While visiting a diplomatic mission in Turkey, he was brutally murdered by agents of the Saudi government. The attackers included members of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s personal security detail.
Jamal did absolutely nothing to deserve this cruel fate. He was simply doing the job of a journalist, which is to tell the truth.
He told the truth about the Saudi government’s refusal to grant basic freedoms to their citizens.
He told the truth about the hollowness of the Crown Prince’s so-called “reforms.”
He told the truth about Saudi Arabia’s continued repression of women. While much was made of women being allowed to drive, Jamal pointed out that many who had championed this cause—women and men—were arrested and still languish in Saudi prisons.
In his columns, he listed the names of detained women dissidents so that their cause would not be forgotten. Jamal promoted and even translated the work of Saudi women writers to help their voices reach the widest possible audience.
But for Jamal, as for too many journalists, the truth he sought to expose was inconvenient—at least for leaders trying to cover up their abuses of power. And so the Saudi government decided to silence Jamal, forever.
Although they took Jamal’s life, they have only succeeded in amplifying his message. Jamal’s name, his work, and the vision he had for his country are now becoming better known all over the world.
Sometimes the actions of a single moment can inspire movements of great consequence with long-lasting impact. Jamal’s death should be such a moment. It now falls to us—all of us in this room, and all of us in this profession—to support this movement, and to ensure it helps prevent heinous attacks like this one from ever happening again.
We must use our voices and our platforms to demand the truth. And not only from the Saudis. We must demand accountability from our own leaders who should be holding the perpetrators of this barbaric crime responsible but, so far, have not.
When officials of our government are asked about consequences for Jamal’s murder, they often talk about “balancing our interests in the area.” The “Khashoggi incident” is viewed in some respects as a “complication” in a far more important strategic relationship.
But Jamal’s death is more than a “complication.” It is vicious, state-sponsored murder of an innocent journalist.
Saudi Arabia’s contempt for our values should cause us to reflect on what our interests really are—not only in the Middle East, but around the world. What American interests are greater than human rights, free expression, and the ability to trust a strategic partner?
With each new day, and as each new Saudi lie is revealed, the United States must be willing to carefully evaluate our relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—and ensure that we are honoring our real interests.
Our government should immediately suspend arms deals with the Saudis. They should use the Magnitsky Act to punish everyone involved in the planning, execution and cover up of the brazen attack on Jamal.
They should demand that the Saudi government immediately release all detained journalists and dissidents from prison.
We’ve seen Democrats and Republicans in Congress stand up for our values and express these concerns. The administration should show similar conviction.
How we respond to Jamal’s killing sends a message to Saudi tyrants and to others around the world. This is a crucial moment where we can take a stand to halt the global trend of increased attacks on journalists.
If those who persecute journalists get away with their crimes—and are allowed to continue with business as usual—it only invites more of the same.
If Saudi Arabia faces no consequences for Jamal’s murder, it sends a powerful message of tolerance, perhaps even encouragement. And every journalist in every country will be at greater risk.
To help in this effort, today we announce an important new Washington Post initiative called the Press Freedom Partnership.
Working with the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, Reporters Without Borders, and other interested groups, we are making a major global commitment to increase awareness of the importance of an independent press.
We are devoting significant and ongoing resources … deploying our marketing and advertising capabilities … and using the reach of the Washington Post’s platforms to champion the journalists who take risks every day to expose the truth.
Through the Press Freedom Partnership, and initiatives that I hope other media organizations might launch, we can keep alive the noble work of Jamal Khashoggi. And we can honor all the courageous journalists whose efforts hold the powerful to account and preserve our fundamental freedoms.
Let me conclude by expressing my deep appreciation, along with that of everyone at The Washington Post, to the International Women’s Media Foundation. Every day, your support for journalists—especially women journalists—makes their honest, courageous storytelling possible, and we are grateful for this vital work.