by Bruce Haring –Hollywood Deadline
Questions about the role of the Saudi Arabia government in the disappearance of a Washington Post-affiliated journalist have caused a number of prominent media companies and speakers to withdraw from a big business conference in the kingdom.
Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and critic of Saudi Arabia, was last seen entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct. 2. He has since gone missing and published reports have said he is believed to have been killed inside the embassy by Saudi security agents, then dismembered. The Saudi government maintains that he left the consulate the same day and is not in their custody.
The uproar over his disappearance intensified over the last few days, as prominent journalism organizations took up the cause and asked for an investigation. More than 30 journalism and free press organizations sent an open letter today to Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, demanding a “full investigation” into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“The threat of violence, kidnapping or death to any journalist who is seeking the truth and reporting it is dangerous to freedom and democracy around the world,” said the letter. “It is of utmost importance that officials do everything in their power to find Khashoggi, return him to his fiancée and family and hold those responsible for his disappearance accountable.”
So far, confirmed withdrawals from the conference include Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, the New York Times and its columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, The Economist editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, and Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong among prominent people pulling out of speaking or sponsoring at the event. Fox Business News is evaluating the situation, according to a spokesperson.
The Future Investment Initiative, nicknamed “Davos in the desert,” is hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The conference focus is part of his Vision 2030 initiative that aims to wean the kingdom from relying on oil revenues. The conference is scheduled October 23 and October 25 in Riyadh.
Other media partners for the Saudi investment conference include CNN, Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business Network, Financial Times, Nikkei and Al Arabiya. Journalists from Fox Business Network, CNN, CNBC and the Los Angeles Times were scheduled to speak.