Today, Arab News honors the memory of Jamal Khashoggi: Not only a fellow journalist, not only a former deputy editor of this newspaper, but also a man that many of us were honored to know, privileged to work with and proud to call a friend.
Many reading this will still ask, how did he die? It is a fair question, and one that must receive a full answer. But until the investigations are complete, let us focus rather on how Jamal lived.
Kind-hearted, soft-spoken, hard-working and a consummate professional, Jimmy K (as he was known in our newsroom) would have never tolerated much of what is currently being said or done in his name, or in the name of journalism.
Let me start with our own Saudi media, in which some of the “reporting” and opinion published in the past two weeks has been a disgrace to the profession to which Jamal devoted himself.
Some of my colleagues will blame the absence of official information, which is indisputably a problem; we cannot be talking about reforms and a new culture of accountability in this country if official phones go silent the moment a big story breaks. Yes, authorities needed time to complete their investigation, but in the world of fast-breaking news, two weeks is an eternity. Officials need to learn that if they don’t tell their story, someone else will — more often than not, the enemies of the Kingdom.
Nevertheless, lack of information is no excuse to invent it. Conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated facts should remain the exclusive domain of some Qatari and Turkish media outlets.
And from them, at least such conduct is to be expected. But what on earth happened to some of the most reputable global players in our industry, who day after day ignored their own code of conduct and the basic rules of journalism by relying on one-sided anonymous sources?
Worse, not a single apology was issued to their readers or their audiences.
He repeatedly declared his love for the Kingdom and its people. Even though he disagreed with some of the practices of the current Saudi leadership, he remained loyal.
Faisal J. Abbas
Arab News asked the BBC about a report on its Arabic service that assumed the existence of the infamous “audio recording” of events inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Does this tape actually exist? No one knows.
The BBC certainly doesn’t; to our shock, they could not confirm to us that they had obtained the recording from their Turkish source, or that they had even heard it — while insisting, with unconscious irony, that they adhered to their editorial standards.
“Standards”? Excuse me? Not even a caveat to their listeners that the BBC could not independently verify the existence of such a recording?
The Reuters news agency, too, had to retract stories after it became evident that they were baseless (perhaps because their regional correspondent was too busy making fun on Twitter of Saudis who offered their thoughts and prayers to the Khashoggi family; apparently that is only an American thing).
Twitter, of course, is a hopeless case; an environment so toxic that some of what has been said about Saudis, and Arab/Muslim culture in general, is just horrendous. The Jamal I knew would have never accepted such abuse in his name against his own country, its leadership and its people. He could disagree with you, but he would always find the most polite and eloquent way to do so. Many nowadays forget, intentionally or otherwise, that he continually refused to be labeled as an opposition member. He repeatedly declared his love for the Kingdom and its people.
Even though he disagreed with some of the practices of the current Saudi leadership, he remained loyal, and even praised many of the reforms (such as last year’s crackdown on corruption) in some of his most recent Arabic television interviews.
As his friends and colleagues, we may have had differences of opinion, especially when it came to his views on political Islam. But this is not the time or the place to discuss his affiliations, or his activities outside journalism. We owe it to him to celebrate his career and mourn its untimely end.
We are fully confident that those responsible will be held accountable, that no question will remain unanswered, and that Jamal can rest in peace.
• Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor in Chief of Arab News. Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas