Washington Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan and Jeff Bezos delivered the following remarks at Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi’s one-year memorial service hosted by Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, No Peace Without Justice, Turkish Arab Media Association and AlSharq Forum in Istanbul.
I am also grateful to be on this stage with so many champions of press freedom. We appreciate the work that all of you do every day to promote the safety and independence of journalists in all countries.
At the Washington Post, we deeply mourn Jamal’s loss. His readers knew him as a talented columnist, and those who worked with him knew him as a trusted colleague and a dear friend. It is meaningful that we are joined today by Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post. Jeff has been resolute in standing up for courageous and independent journalism around the world.
I would especially like to thank Hatice, a brave woman whose time of great joy was transformed into a terrifying nightmare. From the depths of your anguish, you have found incredible strength and determination. You have searched unceasingly for answers about Jamal’s murder and done everything in your power to spread his message about the importance of a free press. Your dedication has inspired us all.
As others have so eloquently stated, this is a dark moment for those who depend on the work of a free press. Journalists are under threat not only in this region, but around the world. They encounter censorship, harassment, and violence for doing a job that is essential to our freedom.
In every part of the world, authoritarian rulers are increasing their grip on the press, trying to prevent reporters from holding the powerful to account. Even in the United States—which has always been a champion of press freedom—the government has shown rising levels of hostility.
Leaders across the globe must come to understand that journalists are not “enemies of the people.” As Jamal’s work so clearly showed, they are servants of the people—and of the democratic principles that empower the people.
When people have access only to information supplied or approved by their governments, their worlds and their possibilities are limited to what the government allows them to know. The only way to escape this tyranny—the only way to have free and independent lives—is to guarantee a free and independent press.
After Jamal’s killing and the indifference some world leaders have shown, it may be tempting to become cynical or even defeatist. But it is worth remembering an important lesson from history. Sometimes, a single event can ignite a great movement. It can be a catalyst that brings about sweeping changes that endure for generations.
Standing here, so close to the site of an act of pure evil, is not easy—because the sorrow we feel over Jamal’s killing is every bit as real today as it was one year ago. But, as we gather at this memorial to honor Jamal’s life, let’s commit—here, and now—to making this a catalyzing moment. Let Jamal’s life and its taking advance a movement that strengthens human rights and expands press freedom across the globe.
All of us can start by remaining relentless in pursuit of the truth about Jamal’s killing. Just as he showed courage and resolve in his journalism, we must remain fearless and steadfast in demanding accountability for his murder.
For journalists, carrying forward Jamal’s legacy means not being intimidated into silence. That is exactly what those behind Jamal’s assassination want. That is why they killed him. Instead, journalists must keep asking the next question. Keep digging into corruption. Keep demanding responsibility for crimes and abuses of power.
Journalists put their lives at risk every day because of the conflict zones they cover, the powerful people they challenge, or the wrongdoing they reveal. One way we can honor Jamal is to stand up for these men and women—today, and every day from now on.
Their safety must be protected. Their questions to the powerful must be answered. They must be supported and defended as they go about the work that safeguards our freedoms.
We will never forget Jamal Khashoggi. His killing is an incalculable loss for those who knew him and loved him. But if we remain vigilant in defense of press freedom, the work for which he gave his life can leave a lasting contribution to the world—in the form of deeper respect for liberty, human rights, and the truth.
Remarks by Jeff Bezos:
No one should ever have to endure what you have. Right here where you are today, you paced that street. For hours. Pacing. And waiting. And he never came out. It is unimaginable. You need to know, you are in our hearts. We are here. You are not alone.