Saudi Arabia's 2019 press freedom ranking to fall after Khashoggi murder: RSF

Saudi Arabia's 2019 press freedom ranking to fall after Khashoggi murder: RSF
As the world media focuses on identifying details of a case that has pointed toward Saudi authorities, journalists' rights groups have taken aim at Riyadh's dwindling press freedom.
2 min read
23 October, 2018
The campaign was launched amid an ongoing probe into the killing of Khashoggi [Twitter]

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued an "incident report" on Saudi Arabia's press freedom and threat to the kingdom's already poor ranking in the World Press Freedom Index, amid international anger over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia is ranked 169th out of 180 countries, in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, according to the RSF, which predicts a further fall in the upcoming 2019 index, due to the "gravity of the violence and abuses of all kinds against journalists".

"RSF has noted a steady increase in abuses against journalists since Mohammad bin Salman's appointment as crown prince in June 2017. Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October has shown that, despite a facade of modernism, the regime stops at nothing to silence critical journalists," the group said.

The media watchdog said the number of journalists and bloggers in Saudi prisons has doubled since MbS became crown prince in 2017, most of which were detained during the end of that year.

The RSF statement came as a journalists' rights group on Monday launched a campaign at the United Nations seeking a convention to protect media workers' rights worldwide.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said the goal of the campaign was ending impunity in violations of these rights, as the world media focuses on identifying the details of a case that has provided evidence suggesting it was planned by authorities in Riyadh

An initial meeting at UN headquarters brought together fifteen countries, including Greece, Russia, Pakistan, Peru, Italy and Tunisia, IFJ head Anthony Bellanger said.

His Brussels-based organisation represents 600,000 journalists in 134 countries. 

The effort comes at a dramatic moment with the case of Khashoggi, who was murdered 2 October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The case has underscored the difficulties many journalists face, with threats of harassment, assault or even death. 

Organisers of the campaign hold that it is not possible to wait for the next murder without doing anything: worldwide 82 journalists were confirmed killed last year, with only one in ten deaths investigated.

"The best tribute we can pay to the victims is to unrelentingly mobilise and work tirelessly to lift the shadow of impunity which has been over journalism for far too long," Bellanger said.

The campaign aims to mobilise several countries to take the effort to the United Nations General Assembly, the only authority that can start the process leading to adoption of an international convention.