Post prints blank column in solidarity with missing Saudi columnist

Post prints blank column in solidarity with missing Saudi columnist
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The Washington Post printed a blank column in its Friday edition in a show of solidarity with a Saudi contributor to the paper who disappeared while visiting Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul this week.

Contributor Jamal Khashoggi, who has been a outspoken critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his policies, went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate on Tuesday.

The Saudi government through its state-run press agency claimed Khashoggi left the consulate that same day.

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"The consulate confirmed that it is carrying out follow-up procedures and coordination with the Turkish local authorities to uncover the circumstances of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi after he left the consulate building," reported the Saudi Press Agency in a statement.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan disputed the Saudi claim, stating the 59-year-old journalist is still inside.  

"According to the information we have, this person who is a Saudi citizen is still at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul," said Erdogan on Wednesday. "We don't have information to the contrary."

The Post's empty column in Friday's edition included Khashoggi's byline with the headline "A missing voice," as its editorial board called on Saudi Arabia to allow him to continue to do his work freely.

"His criticism, voiced over the past year, most surely rankles Mohammed bin Salman, who was elevated to crown prince last year and has carried out a wide-ranging campaign to silence dissent while trying to modernize the kingdom," the editorial read. "Among those in his prisons for political speech are clerics, bloggers, journalists and activists. He imprisoned women who agitated for the right to drive, a right that was granted even as they were punished."  

"The crown prince has been all over the United States preaching his vision of a more modern Saudi society, breaking out of the stale old religious codes and practices, opening up to foreign entertainment and investment," the editorial continues. "If he is truly committed to this, he will welcome constructive criticism from patriots such as Mr. Khashoggi. And he will do everything in his power to ensure that Mr. Khashoggi is free and able to continue his work." 

Khashoggi was at the Saudi consulate to obtain a document needed to get married. He has been living in exile in the U.S. since September 2017.