The Alleged Murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Why this case strikes such a nerve

Carla Ferstman

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Jamal Khashoggi. Photo credit: April Brady/Project on Middle East Democracy

On 2 October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent exiled critic of the Saudi regime and journalist for the Washington Post attended the Saudi consulate in Turkey to retrieve paperwork needed for his impending marriage to Turkish national Hatice Cendiz. Ms Cendiz waited for him outside the consulate in vain; he never emerged. Weeks have now passed and Turkish authorities have drip-fed a stream of gruesome information about their investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance and apparent murder within the confines of the embassy.

Details which have emerged include the arrival in Turkey of a team of 15 special forces officers and intelligence officials, information about Khashoggi having been tortured, killed, beheaded and dismembered with a bone saw. Apparently, some areas at the Saudi consulate where Khashoggi was last seen alive had been repainted and toxic materials had been found by police. Turkish sources have apparently alleged that the body was transported to the consul general’s house nearby and disposed of.  On 15 October, CNN reported that it had been informed by sources that the Saudis are preparing a report that will say that Khashoggi died in a botched interrogation intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey. According to reports over the last 24 hours, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has travelled to Saudi Arabia for crisis talks regarding the unfolding situation and is on route to Turkey.

Saudi Arabia is clearly no beacon for human rights. While there is no pecking order for atrocious acts of violence, it is hard to ignore Saudi Arabia’s three-year campaign of indiscriminate bombing of Yemen, devastating the civilian population and leading to mass starvation. Nor should we ignore the spate of beheadings in the country.

So why does the Khashoggi case strike such a nerve?

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As Myanmar sends journalists to jail, pressure mounts on Aung San Suu Kyi

By Dr Andrew Fagan

This blog originally appeared on The Conversation

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Image: Aung San Suu Kyi, Shutterstock

The government of Myanmar and its de facto head, Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, are facing renewed international condemnation after two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were sentenced to seven years in prison for breaking an official secrets law. Their crime: receiving documents detailing the killing of ten Rohingya men and boys by Myanmar security personnel in 2017, during the military’s genocidal response to isolated attacks conducted by Rohingya militants.

Unusually, the authorities admitted that the killings did take place, and a military tribunal has sentenced the perpetrators to prison and hard labour. For their part, the two Reuters journalists were detained by police moments after receiving the documents, adding credence to the suspicion that they were the victims of a somewhat bizarre conspiracy against Myanmar’s already very vulnerable press.

The UN, the EU and various governments who’ve been particularly supportive of Myanmar’s stuttering democratic reforms have all condemned the verdict. But given how little concern Suu Kyi and her government have shown in response to allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, it’s hard to see another wave of international criticism turning the government away from its potentially disastrous current direction.

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How Does Content Moderation Affect Human Rights? Commentary on the Case of Infowars

By Vivian Ng and Sabrina Rau

On 6 August 2018, Apple, Facebook and Spotify removed content from Alex Jones’s Infowars pages and accounts on their platforms, which were seen to be spreading conspiracy theories and hate speech. YouTube also terminated Alex Jones’s channel. These recent actions followed the takedown of four of Infowars’ YouTube videos earlier last month. While Twitter did not immediately take any action, they later suspended Alex Jones’s account for seven days on 15 August, citing violation of their rules on abusive behaviour and inciting violence. These companies have removed content or terminated these accounts on grounds that they violated the terms of service.

Much of the reporting has been critical of companies who are perceived to have not done enough, or acted quickly enough, to remove content from Alex Jones and Infowars. The attention seems to centre on whether such platforms have acted appropriately and adequately to combat misinformation and disinformation spread by entities like Infowars. For example, while Twitter has since taken action regarding Alex Jones’s account, it had been criticised for not suspending the separate Infowars Twitter account as well. Google and Apple have also been criticised for not removing the Infowars app on their app stores. These issues are important but commentary has been lacking on the broader significance of the current news around the actions platforms are taking regarding the content and accounts of Infowars and Alex Jones. More fundamentally, what role do companies have in content moderation, and how should that role be carried out? This post will look at the role that social media platforms play in the realisation of the right to freedom of expression in particular, and consider if and how content moderation by private companies that own and control such platforms can be compliant with human rights standards and norms.

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Deconstructing the meaning of Art: a thing or a right?

By Luis F. Yanes

This blog originally appeared on SLSA Blog.

From Aristotle to contemporary thinkers, many have suggested that there is a human instinct to produce and to enjoy artistic experiences or expressions. But how to define such natural instinct? When we really enjoy something – something we believe to be well done and particularly beautiful – like a car, a house, a table, or even a person, we tend to refer it as ‘a piece of art’, highlighting a distinct characteristic that it has from everything else. Is art then beauty?

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Book Review: “Arab National Media and Political Change: Recording the Transition” (Fatima El-Issawi, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

By Sahar Khamis

A lot of the literature dealing with the role of the media in the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings focused on the notion of “cyberactivism,” or how and why new media, especially social media, exhibited the potential to act as catalysts for speeding up public mobilization against authoritarian regimes.

Moving beyond assumptions of technological determinism, which focus on what social media can or cannot do to aid socio-political transformation, Fatima El-Issawi’s book: “Arab National Media and Political Change: Recording the Transition” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) sheds light on an extremely important, yet understudied, dimension, namely: The “voice” of the media actors and players, i.e., those who are producing mediated messages in mainstream media in some of the transitioning countries in the Arab region.

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