Khashoggi calls for freedom of expression in Middle East in final column before disappearance

Khashoggi calls for freedom of expression in Middle East in final column before disappearance
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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi extolled the need for a free press and free exchange of ideas in the Arab world in a Washington Post column published Thursday, more than two weeks after he was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices," Khashoggi wrote.

"We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education," he continued. "Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face."

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The column was filed by Khashoggi's translator the day after the columnist was reported missing in Istanbul, Global Opinions Editor Karen Attiah said in a note attached to the column.

Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi government, has been missing since Oct. 2, when he was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials and U.S. lawmakers have indicated he was likely murdered there. 

In the column, Khashoggi cited the case of Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, who wrote a column critical of the Saudi government and was sentenced to five years in prison for it. Khashoggi also noted that the Egyptian government seized a newspaper in the country.

The tepid international response, he warned, has empowered Arab governments to continue silencing their critics in the media.

"These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community," Khashoggi wrote. "Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence."

Attiah wrote in her editor's note that she waited to publish Khashoggi's piece in the days after he disappeared, out of hope he would return.

"Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen," she wrote. "This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for."

Reports published Wednesday said Turkish officials have audio that proves Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE said the U.S. has requested access to the tapes.

U.S. lawmakers have vowed the Saudis will face punishment if they are found to be responsible for Khashoggi's death. Multiple senators have said in recent days that it's increasingly apparent that Saudi leadership played a part in the journalist's death.

Trump, meanwhile, has been resistant to assign blame in the case and has repeatedly highlighted denials from Saudi leadership that they know what happened to Khashoggi.

"I want to find out what happened, where is the fault, and we will probably know that by the end of the week," Trump said Wednesday.