If the West fails to lead by example on media freedom

If the West fails to lead by example on media freedom

“I worked both as a war reporter and political reporter. At present I don’t know which is more dangerous,” said Lisa LaFlamme, chief news anchor and senior editor of CTV National News while moderating a panel at a media freedom conference organized in London on July 10.

The number of murdered journalists have doubled this decade compared with last decade, and most of these murders have not taken place in war zones. The majority of journalists who have been murdered were behind corruption stories. What’s worse, nine out of 10 cases of journalists’ murders go unpunished.

The conference, co-sponsored by Canada and the U.K., has revealed a realization in the Western world that targeting press freedom is no longer a problem of the third world.

Malta, a member of the European Union, is under severe criticism for failing to properly investigate the death of an anti-corruption journalist by a car bomb in 2017.

Maltese officials were among those being investigated by Daphne Caruana Galizia, and a report issued by the Council of Europe stated that Maltese authorities failed to ensure an independent investigation into her murder.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee also expressed last February serious concerns over the rule of law in Malta as well as Slovakia, where investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were shot dead in February 2018.

Kuciak had been reporting on corruption, tax fraud and links between high-ranking Slovak politicians and the Italian mafia. No need to say that Slovakia is a member of the EU, which Turkey cannot enter due to shortcomings in the rule of law and media freedom, among others.

Can it be a relief that Turkey is making the headlines for imprisoned journalists and not for murdered journalists? No, because even one is too many, as three Turkish journalists have been murdered in the course of the last decade, with the last being in 2016, according to the Turkish Journalists Association.

And unfortunately, Turkey has now gone to the history as a setting stage of one of the most brutal state-sanctioned murder of a dissident who was also a columnist for
the Washington Post.

On Oct. 2 last year, Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi operatives in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

In a report released last month, the United Nations’ extrajudicial executions investigator, Agnes Callamard, pointed the finger at the Saudi royal family.

Yet world leaders seemed unbothered to stand side by side with the Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) and U.S. President Donald Trump who took center stage at the family photo during the G20 summit in Japan last month.

“At the Nov. 30 G20 family photo in Buenos Aires, the Saudi crown prince stood silently in the back and off to the side without engaging with any world leaders. This was two months after Khashoggi’s disappearance and murder at the hands of Saudi operatives. By June 29, the crown prince was the life of the party, along with Trump,” said the JapanTimes in an opinion article published after the June summit. What has changed in the course of the past seven months, asked the article.

Ironically, more and more violent details were revealed about the murder of Khasoggi and evidence about its killers during those seven months.

Yet none of these new details have stopped Saudi Arabia from earning the honor of becoming the first Arab country to host the next G20 summit for the first time in 2020.

“There were 19 cowards at the G20,” Callamard said at the conference in London.

There is a saying in Turkish that comes from the old times when they used to cover meat with salt so it does not get rotten and stink: “The salt stinks.”

If those to lead by example fail to do so, first they should not be surprised that their criticism of the others will fall on deaf ears. And second they should be prepared for the fact that if they remain indifferent to inaction to a malaise in a distant land, they might end up suffering from the same malaise at one stage.