by WorldTribune Staff, October 19, 2018
In the absence of on-the-record information from government officials and other reliable sources, the U.S. corporate media have turned to state-aligned outlets in Turkey for information on the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Turkish government, which controls most media in the country, is routinely ranked among the worst in the world when it comes to press freedom.
Turkey also is the world’s worst offender when it comes to jailing reporters for their work, according to a 2017 report on press freedom released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Over 150 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey for crimes ranging from “insulting the president” to “terrorism.”
As the PEN International group notes on its website, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shut down over 180 media outlets since July 2016, when he claimed supporters of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen attempted a coup against him.
Reports that Khashoggi was tortured, dismembered and murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul have come mainly from media outlets with close ties to Erdogan.
“Turkish anonymous sources have delivered blood, gore, and very little evidence to back up their claims – typical for a government that often uses false charges of terrorism to imprison journalists or dismiss government employees,” Frances Martel noted in an Oct. 18 report for Breitbart News.
“Yet the American journalists relying on the steady trickle of gossip from Ankara have done little to highlight the poor reputation of the Turkish legal system and Turkey’s status as the world’s most prolific jailer of journalists. This latter point is of particular concern in a case involving the disappearance of a journalist critical of his home government.”
Most sources for the known details in Khashoggi’s disappearance “are either (alleged) Turkish government investigators or Erdogan-friendly Turkish newspapers that, after years of Ankara persecuting antagonistic outlets, have overrun the Turkish media landscape,” Martel wrote.
Information from those sources includes:
- Audio recordings claiming Khashoggi was tortured, dismembered, and killed in the Saudi consulate appeared in Yeni Safak, a pro-Erdogan newspaper, which said the recordings allegedly prove that Saudi interrogators cut Khashoggi’s fingers off before killing him. The recordings, which the newspaper does not offer, allegedly feature the voice of Saudi Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi. Asked about the tape, U.S. President Donald Trump notably told reporters, “I’m not sure yet that it exists.”
- Quoting “Turkish officials,” CNN published a report claiming Khashoggi was dismembered after being shot with a tranquilizer in the embassy. CNN published the report with no further indication of the veracity of its sourcing.
- Sky News and the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, citing “a well-placed source”, reported that the Saudis used a “very fast-acting chemical acid” to dissolve Khashoggi’s body at the embassy. Hurriyet, once Turkey’s premier impartial news source, was purchased by a friend of Erdogan.
- Middle East Eye, an outlet which often takes an anti-Saudi slant, cited “a source in the Istanbul Prosecutor General’s office” in a report claiming seven of the suspects in the Khashoggi case are members of the personal security team of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“While many in media highlight the long history of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, and some manage to find blame for President Donald Trump in this affair, Turkey’s own dire reputation of fabricating claims against political enemies and wantonly abusing its journalists has been relegated to the background of the affair,” Martel noted.
Meanwhile, Breitbart Editor-at-Large John Nolte wrote in an Oct. 18 op-ed that the U.S. corporate media “are playing us, are only pretending to care about Khashoggi.”
Nolte continued: “Have you heard a single squeak of outrage from CNN or NBC or Washington Post over the 30-plus Mexican journalists murdered since 2016? Of course you haven’t. Because outrage over that particular horror show only works against the media’s left-wing cause of portraying Mexico as an idyllic nation sending us their best and brightest.”