'Washington Post' Publishes Jamal Khashoggi's Last Column
NOEL KING, HOST:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke today and said that President Trump and his administration want to give Saudi Arabia's government more time to investigate the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi journalist, who was a regular contributor to The Washington Post, was last seen walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul early this month. Last night, the Post published what may be his last column. He's believed to be a casualty of the topic he wrote about in that piece - an unfree press in the Arab world.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Khashoggi wrote about Arab governments suppressing a free press without consequences. We're going to read part of that column to you now. Quote, "these actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation, quickly followed by silence. As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate."
KING: He goes on. "There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They've also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications." Now, earlier, I spoke to Khashoggi's editor at The Washington Post, Karen Attiah.
KAREN ATTIAH: Thank you so much for having me.
KING: So in a note to readers above the column, you wrote that Khashoggi's translator sent you this piece a day after he was reported missing. When did you realize that it was the time to publish it?
ATTIAH: For me, personally, you know, earlier this week, I think with the news reports - and, of course, you don't know sort of evidence of proof of life coming from either the Turkish or the Saudi side. We just decided that now is the week, the time to do it. I think also as the story is moving to a more geopolitical story, a story about U.S.-Saudi relations, Gulf relations, I think we just decided that it was good to bring the story back to Jamal, who Jamal was, in particular, this column about expression. Freedom for journalists in the Arab world was something that, during our time together, he was extremely passionate about and extremely energized about and away from sort of the geopolitics and just back to the humanity of it, about his thoughts, his words and his ideas.
KING: When you talked to him about what was happening back home, what did he say? How was he struggling with that beyond just - beyond writing about it? What other steps did he want to take?
ATTIAH: Very often - I mean, this last column is fitting. Very often in his pieces that he wrote for The Post, he would call attention to reformers and activists who were also being detained and jailed. So I think, for him, it was keeping awareness on these people. And these are just the people that we know about. You know, there are hundreds, if not thousands of others who have been detained or disappeared under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. So I think he definitely thought that this is something he didn't agree with. And he always used to say Saudi Arabia was not always like this. He would say that it wasn't always this repressive.
KING: Did he ever talk - you know, a man who spent most of his life in Saudi Arabia, did he ever talk about having friends or colleagues who still supported the regime and how difficult that must have been?
ATTIAH: Sure. And again, I mean, Jamal himself even was not this revolutionary. In none of his pieces did he call for, you know, overthrow or anything. He was somebody who, even in his work and his long career, believed, in a way, working within the system. And so, you know, as far as, you know, our conversations about being pained at people who support that, he wasn't really - in our conversations, he wasn't really pained so much about that. He was just sort of in pain in general about the direction Saudi Arabia was taking. And I think he really struggled to understand why people who even supported - publicly supported Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reforms were still finding themselves surveilled and intimidated and even detained.
KING: What will you remember about your friendship with Jamal Khashoggi?
ATTIAH: Oh, man. He was just a very, very kind, very humble and very generous person. I'll remember him just being so energized about being able to write freely. I think it's just something in this country, in America, that we take for granted so much. But obviously, looking back on it now, realizing that he gave up so much, just everything - his family, his being kicked out of jobs. I just - I'm inspired by his unwavering commitment to not only, you know, having freedom for himself but trying to extend that to his fellow Arab writers and voices and to - he just wanted the world, the Arab world, to be a better place. And I'll never forget that.
KING: Karen Attiah is The Washington Post's Global Opinions editor. Karen, thank you so much.
ATTIAH: Thank you so much, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.