One Big Thing: Saudi Arabia’s Silencing and Stifling of Human Rights
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What you need to know:
- Last week, a UN report was released alleging that Amazon founder and The Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos’s phone was hacked in 2018 by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman using a WhatsApp account. It is suspected that the hack may have been an attempt to pressure Mr. Bezos to curb The Washington Post's negative coverage of the Saudi regime.
- Four months after the hack took place, the Crown Prince allegedly ordered the murder of prominent Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi because of his critical writing about Saudi Arabia’s human rights policies. Mr. Khashoggi entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul and never emerged. The Post wrote a number of investigative articles blaming the Crown Prince.
Why does it matter:
- These alleged crimes (killing Khashoggi and hacking Bezos) are major attacks on American free speech by another country’s leader. Many experts believe that the Crown Prince assumed he could influence Bezos to shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in The Washington Post.
- The Saudi regime has tried an assortment of media strategies, including hiring celebrities and prominent Instagram influencers to promote the music festival MDL Beast, to rehabilitate Saudi Arabia’s damaged international image to in light of its abysmal human rights record. Other celebrities have boycotted the country because of its human rights issues including Nikki Minaj who pulled out of a concert to show support for women and LGBTQ rights.
- While women have gradually won new rights in recent years, it has not come without a price. In June 2018, Saudi Arabia lifted the longstanding ban on women driving but, in the weeks, leading up, Saudi authorities carried out a wave of arrests of prominent women’s rights advocates. Between 10 and 12 women were arrested and Saudi authorities still have not explained why the women, most of whom remain in prison to this day, were arrested. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issues reports saying that the women detained were tortured.
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