On Wednesday, human rights attorney Amal Clooney spoke at the United Nations Correspondents Association Awards. During her speech, Clooney criticized President Trump for his repeated attacks on the press as the “enemy of the people.”
Clooney first spoke about Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists who were falsely convicted of “possessing secret material” in Myanmar and sentenced to seven years in prison. She added that when a policeman who was a prosecution witness actually testified against the government, he was also imprisoned.
In locking up these two journalists and a whistle blower, the authorities are, of course, signaling to others what can happen if you dare to tell the truth. The chilling effect is real and it has already been felt, not only in Myanmar, but further afield. And sadly, similar examples abound in autocratic regimes from North Korea to the Philippines to Hungary, Turkey, and Brazil.
The U.S. president has given such regimes a green light, and labeled the press in this country the “enemy of the people.” And, of course, two months ago, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into a consulate in Istanbul and was brutally tortured to death. In many of the cases that I have worked on, too, I have seen journalists and opposition figures ruthlessly targeted so that they can no longer criticize leaders or run against them in elections.
Despite the CIA issuing a “high confidence” report alleging that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) most likely knew about, or directed, the plot to kill Khashoggi, President Trump has pushed back, noting that the report isn’t conclusive.
In an official statement released by the White House, the president said in part:
The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime.
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t! That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.
The president added that our geopolitical relationship with Saudi Arabia is vital for stability in the region, and that the kingdom has invested in the American economy and kept oil prices low.
As The Daily Wire previously reported, 17 individuals have indeed been sanctioned over alleged involvement in Khashoghi’s murder, “including high-ranking Saudi government officials Saud Al-Qahtani and Maher Mutreb.”
While the president has moved to defend the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, several members of his own party are ready to take more severe action. On November 28, the Senate voted 63-37 in favor of a resolution calling for President Trump to pull United States armed forces out of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) stated:
Intelligence suggests, despite his repeated denials, that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia himself ordered the murder. Saudi Arabia’s moral depravity has only been made plainer.
The senator added that Saudi Arabia “is not an ally that deserves our support or military intervention on its behalf, especially when our own security is not itself on the line.”
The vote allowed the resolution to be discharged from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and moved to the Senate floor for debate and the addition of amendments. No further action has been taken as of publication.