Trump suggests ‘rogue killers’ murdered Saudi journalist
By JILL COLVIN, MATTHEW PENNINGTON and FAY ABUELGASIM
Tuesday, October 16
Eds: New version. Adds that until now Trump has focused on possible punishment rather than explanations. Changes dateline from Istanbul. Incorporates BC-United States-Saudi Arabia-Missing Writer. With AP Photos. AP Video.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump suggested Monday that “rogue killers” could be responsible for the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an explanation offering U.S. ally Saudi Arabia a possible path out of a global diplomatic firestorm. The Saudis continued to deny they killed the writer, but there were indications the story could soon change.
While Trump commented at the White House, Turkish crime scene investigators finally entered the Saudi consulate to comb the building where Khashoggi was last seen alive two weeks ago.
Trump spoke after a personal 20-minute phone call with Saudi King Salman and as the president dispatched his secretary of state to Riyadh for a face-to-face discussion with the king. Late in the day, there were published reports that the Saudis were preparing to concede that Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, had been killed in an interrogation gone wrong.
Before Monday Trump had focused less on possible explanations for Khashoggi’s likely demise than on possible punishment if the Saudis were found culpable.
“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to survey hurricane damage in Florida and Georgia. Trump said he didn’t “want to get into (Salman’s) mind,” but he added, “it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.”
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government and in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the consulate on Oct. 2 to get paperwork for his upcoming marriage to a Turkish woman. Turkish officials have said he was killed and dismembered.
In a sign of new cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia that could shed light on the disappearance, Turkish investigators wearing coveralls and gloves entered the consulate Monday. It remained unclear what evidence they might be able to uncover. Earlier Monday, a cleaning crew with mops, trash bags and what appeared to be bottles of bleach walked in past waiting journalists.
Trump administration officials told The Associated Press that intelligence collected by the U.S. is inconclusive as to what actually happened to Khashoggi. With such a lack of clarity, the administration has not ruled out any possible scenario. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hurriedly sent to Riyadh, expected to get more clarity during talks with Saudi leaders Tuesday. The White House expects credible answers quickly after Pompeo wraps up his trip with a stop in Ankara for meetings with senior Turkish officials.
The State Department has urged a thorough investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance and called on Saudi Arabia to be transparent about the results — advice broadly tracking messages from allies in Europe. Germany, Britain and France issued a joint statement over the weekend expressing “grave concern” and calling for a credible investigation to ensure those responsible for the disappearance “are held to account.”
Trump quoted the King on Monday as saying that neither he nor his son, Crown Prince Mohammed, had any information about what had happened to Khashoggi.
The prince, ambitious, aggressive and just 33 in a kingdom long ruled by aging monarchs, has considerable weight in Saudi government actions. He and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, have forged close ties.
Just last week, Trump vowed to uncover the truth about what happened to Khashoggi and promised “severe punishment” for those responsible. But he has said repeatedly that he does not want to halt a proposed $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia — as some in Congress have said he should — because it would harm the U.S. economically.
Saudi Arabia has pledged to retaliate economically for any U.S. punitive action. That would be an unprecedented breach in a decades-old, deep economic and security relationship that is key to Washington’s policies in the Middle East. A Saudi-owned satellite channel later suggested the world’s largest oil exporter could wield that production as a weapon against America.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still plans to attend a previously scheduled Saudi conference this week to address terrorist financing, but those plans could change as the investigation progresses.
CNN reported that the Saudis were going to admit the killing had occurred but deny the king or crown prince had ordered it. The New York Times reported that the Saudi royal court would soon put out a narrative that an official within the kingdom’s intelligence services — who happened to be a friend of Prince Mohammed — had carried out the killing. According to that narrative, the crown prince had approved an interrogation or rendition of Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, but the intelligence official was tragically incompetent as he eagerly sought to prove himself. Both reports cited anonymous people said to be familiar with the Saudi plans.
Trump said he could not confirm such reports. “I’ve heard that report but nobody’s knows if it’s an official report. So far it’s just the rumor, the rumor of a report coming out,” he said.
Turkey has wanted to search the consulate for days. Permission apparently came after a late Sunday night call between King Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In statements after the call, both praised the creation of a joint Saudi-Turkish probe.
The Turkish inspection team included a prosecutor, a deputy prosecutor, anti-terror police and forensic experts, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Certain areas of the consulate were to remain off-limits, although officials would be able to inspect surveillance cameras, Turkish media reported.
The furor over Khashoggi has dealt a serious setback to Prince Mohammed’s aggressive pitch for the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. Several business leaders and media outlets have backed out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh, called the Future Investment Initiative.
They include the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars; billionaire Richard Branson; JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
Missing Saudi journalist a reminder that reporters worldwide face much worse than Trump’s tweets
Updated October 15, 2018
Associate Professor of Journalism & Media Communication, Colorado State University
Kris Kodrich has participated in the past in Reporters Without Borders surveys distributed to academics, journalists and others concerning levels of threats to press freedom in the United States.
Colorado State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
President Donald Trump spoke with the ruler of Saudi Arabia on Oct. 16 about its role in the disappearance of the Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of Saudi leadership who appears to have been killed in Turkey. By late that day, CNN reported, the Saudi government was preparing a statement saying Khashoggi had died accidentally during an interrogation by Saudi officials.
Trump, an outspoken critic of journalists and their work, has repeatedly accused the “mainstream media” of spreading “fake news” and distorting information about his administration.
These presidential attacks do not seem to be undermining press freedom in the United States. American journalists continue to scrutinize Trump’s every action and tweet without hesitation, serving as an effective watchdog of government and society.
But Trump’s rhetoric may have more dangerous consequences abroad.
In January 2018, the independent nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists awarded the president for “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom,” saying that Trump “has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of press with repressive leaders.”
Not number one
As a journalism professor and former reporter who studies international mass media, I find the challenges facing U.S. journalists today disturbing. But, on a global scale, they are relatively minor.
The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 World Press Freedom Index, which measures pluralism, media independence, self-censorship, transparency and other conditions that support news production.
The ranking, published in April by the Paris-based not-for-profit, puts the U.S. well behind top-ranking Norway and Sweden and down two spots from 2017, but still far from bottom-of-the-pack Syria, Turkmenistan, Eritrea and North Korea.
As I tell my students, the U.S. press system has its faults, including concentration of ownership by huge corporations, which can homogenize national news, and continual cutbacks of resources.
But they probably won’t have to worry about being threatened, jailed or killed for doing their jobs.
Mexico: Reporters beware
That’s not true in Mexico, which has become the deadliest country in the Western Hemisphere for reporters.
Mexican journalists, who face threats from everyone from drug cartels to government authorities, have been under siege for years.
Six journalists were murdered in Mexico in 2017, and two have been killed so far in 2018.
In March, unknown assailants shot Veracruz crime reporter Leobardo Vázquez Atzin at his own restaurant in a town east of Mexico City. A month before, the 26-year-old magazine satirist and political columnist Pamela Montenegro was killed in Acapulco.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Mexico 147th in this year’s Press Freedom Index.
North Korea: Worst in show
In dead last place on the list is totalitarian North Korea, whose leader, Kim Jong Un, may soon meet Trump in a highly anticipated summit in Singapore.
In North Korea, the state-run Korean Central News Agency provides the only news that citizens are permitted to watch. The regime uses technology to control all domestic communications, including what goes out over the national intranet. There is no real internet.
Citizens caught accessing information from outside the country can be sent to concentration camps.
No independent journalism exists within North Korea’s borders.
The international democracy watchdog Freedom House gives it the lowest score in its Freedom of the Press index.
Russia: Jail time and assassinations
Russia, which ranks 148th in Reporters Without Borders’ global index, is a bad place for people who value independent, hard-hitting news.
Stories critical of President Vladimir Putin and his allies will often land a reporter in jail. Five journalists were imprisoned in 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In early June a Russian court sentenced a Ukrainian journalist to 12 years in prison on espionage charges, which his lawyers said were politically motivated.
Not infrequently, Russian journalists are also killed as a result of their work. In 2017, the editor of an independent newspaper in Siberia – who was known for reporting on corruption – was found dead in his backyard with five bullet wounds. Another St. Petersburg journalist who exposed police brutality was beaten and died weeks later in the hospital.
Philippines: Presidential threats
Four reporters were killed in the Philippines last year – the most of any Asian country.
The government of President Rodrigo Duterte has pressured journalists through such means as licensing and public criticism. Before he was sworn in as president in 2016, Duterte also issued the grim warning that “Just because you’re a journalist, you are not exempted from assassination.”
In April 2018, radio journalist Edmund Sestoso died after being shot by an unidentified gunman. Authorities have said his murder may have been connected to his work as a journalist.
Trump’s praise of Duterte – with whom he says he has a “great relationship” – offers a tacit endorsement of this hard-line regime.
The Philippines ranks 133rd of 180 on the global press index.
Turkey: Worst jailer of reporters worldwide
Reporters in Turkey are more likely to end up in jail than journalists in virtually any other country in the world.
Last year, Turkey locked up 73 journalists on charges that included disseminating terrorist propaganda and other anti-state activities. As a result, it dropped two spots on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, from 155th to 157th.
The Committee to Protect Journalists awarded President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan two prizes this year: “Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press” and “Most Thin-Skinned” leader.
“Turkish authorities have repeatedly charged journalists, news outlets, and social media users for insulting Erdoğan, insulting other Turkish leaders, and insulting ‘Turkishness’ in general,” the group says. The Turkish judicial system heard 46,000 cases along those lines in just one year.
President Trump was runner-up in that “thin-skinned” category because of his threats to reconsider libel laws and sue news outlets.
Will freedom of the press endure his regular attacks on journalism? I believe it will, but reporters and First Amendment defenders alike should keep a close watch on this president.
Melania Trump’s pith helmet is not just a hat
October 14, 2018
Jacqueline L. Scott
PhD Student, University of Toronto
Jacqueline L. Scott does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Toronto provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA.
Sometimes a hat is just a hat. But not when it’s a pith helmet worn by a white politician visiting Africa. Pith helmets are relics of colonialism and its big game hunting tradition. So why would Melania Trump wear one?
On a solo tour of Africa, the United States first lady stopped in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Egypt. She went on safari. The pictures of her in a pith helmet and looking rather inscrutable went around the world. Although the first lady said: “I want to talk about my trip, not what I wear,” it is impossible to not talk about the ways race and space collide in this image.
This, of course, is not the first time Trump has been challenged on her clothing choices. After she wore a jacket that said “I really don’t care, do u?” while en route to an immigrant child detention centre, many claimed her choice of clothing was carefully scripted.
Safari is a multi-million dollar industry in Africa. It is most often talked about in terms of tourism, conservation, poaching and big game hunting. Let’s add race to that mix.
The legacy of safari hunting
Most safari tourists, like Melania Trump, are white. The people driving them around, carrying their bags and doing their cooking are mostly Black. Visually, not much has changed since the colonial days of explorers and big-game hunters in Africa.
In the old days, white people had the guns and wore the pith helmets. Trump’s choice of headgear continues that tradition.
Trump has another link to colonial big game hunting. Six years ago, her stepsons – Eric and Donald Trump Jr. – bagged an elephant, leopard and water buffalo on their African hunting safari.
At the time, the Trump men argued that it was a legal trophy hunt and that trophy hunting like theirs provides funds to help communities with conservation. For example, this summer a white woman from Kentucky, Tess Thompson Talley, killed a giraffe in South Africa. Was the dead animal sprawled at her feet a testament to her prowess as a hunter who’s comfortable in the bush and knows her way around a gun? Talley said her hunt was legal and that the money she spends “”hunting in Africa goes towards local wildlife preservation.”
The trouble is the line between legal and illegal becomes blurred when dollars, pounds and euros are at stake. Let’s not forget Cecil the Lion, when the legal lines are more clear. In 2015, Cecil was lured and killed outside of a protected conservation park by Minnesota dentist and avid trophy hunter Walter Palmer.
These are some infamous examples of American trophy hunters. Their main competitors in the African safari kills are the British and Germans. A German hunter legally killed one of the largest elephants in Zimbabwe in October 2015.
Big-game hunters like to pose with their kill on social media. These kill shots are popular. It’s a way of bragging that the hunter was rich enough to go to Africa to hunt. In this context, it becomes just another version of conspicuous consumption.
Black people are rarely featured in these kill shots, and when they are, they don’t have the guns. Those are in the hands of white people. To me it’s the same old story that has nothing to do with conservation; it is race, power and privilege on display.
Poaching for ‘medicine’
Trophy hunting is just one factor driving the extinction of rhinos and elephants in Africa. Poaching is the bigger issue. Race and the history of colonialism are factors here too.
The road to extinction is driven by demands for horns and tusks in Asian countries like China, South Korea and Vietnam. African animal parts are used in traditional medicines to cure a whole range of supposed ailments. The cures do not stand up to modern medicine. The rotting carcasses littering the African landscape seems to be a small price for a dubious elixir.
African governments are complicit in not enforcing anti-poaching laws. While this is true, it also ignores the legacy of colonial economics in Africa.
African poachers killing the equivalent of their golden goose are at the bottom of the food chain; they receive a few dollars for a horn that will resell for thousands in Asia. The continent continues to be a key source of raw materials for the rest of the world. The trade in rhino horns and elephant tusks fits the colonial pattern of exploitation.
The ivory and horn trade is ancient and has been going on for millennia. The trade was sustainable when they were a rare luxury item. The scale of the trade has exploded along with rising incomes; the Asian middle class can now afford it. Africa does not have a limitless supply of animals to slaughter.
My African safari
Long ago, I too went on safari, in Tanzania and Zambia. I saw the much fabled big five — lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo. I shot them with my camera. As a Black woman, I was the rarity among the foreign safari tourists. The Africans called me the Black mzungu. In other words the Black white woman.
Camping in Ngorongoro Crater, I had to remind myself that the setting was real and that the animals could kill. This was necessary because false romantic images from movies like Born Free and Out of Africa were stuck in my head.
A Kenyan safari guide, in fact, told Town and Country that Melania’s pith helmet made them smile, adding “…we haven’t seen that look in East Africa since Meryl Streep was filming Out of Africa 30 years ago!”
The films and television shows are colonial fantasies. In both, the Africans were mere background characters, there to support the latter-day colonial explorers dressed up as conservationists.
Melania Trump’s pith helmet was never just a hat to keep off the sun. It is a symbol of how race and colonialism ghosts shape the African landscape when it comes to safari, poaching and trophy hunting.