Lee C. Bollinger and Agnès Callamard Discuss Press Freedom and Jamal Khashoggi


Agnès Callamard, my
colleague and friend. We are having this conversation
at a very sad moment, to mark the one year anniversary
of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. This is also an
opportunity for us to talk about global
freedom of expression issues and free speech, free press
issues in the United States generally. Let’s start with talking about
the creation of Global Freedom of Expression Project, that I
asked you to come in and head, and you’ve done
and so brilliantly. What we we’ve demonstrated
at Columbia Global Freedom of Expression
is actually, the richness of our
common understanding of freedom of expression. And the fact that so many
courts around the world, particularly of course, in Latin
America, Africa, and Europe, have actually taken the
international standard form article 19 of the ICCPR,
and developed a jurisprudence that has become quite integrated
across those three continents. And is enriching
the jurisprudence of each of those continent. Let’s talk about
your other work. And that is as the
special rapporteur for the United Nations on
extrajudicial killings. And then your involvement
in the investigation of Jamall Khashoggi’s murder. The case of Jamal Khashoggi is
both symbolic of the patterns, and it’s also quite exceptional. So in many ways, it represents
global patterns of attacks– physical attacks against
journalists and media workers, which
literally do not resort into any kind of prosecution. So the large amount of impunity
attached to those killings as far as the masterminds
are concerned. In a number of
cases, the hit men may be identified, but who
ordered the crimes are not. And that was also
the story last year, because the Saudi authorities
quite very quickly identified the so-called hit team,
but did not really get in to who ordered it. So the gap there was very much
in keeping with the unfortunate pattern that we have identified. What made the case of his
killing particularly distinct though, is how
international it was. So it took place outside
the country of the killers and outside the
country of the victim. Most importantly for you and for
I in addition to all of that, and which was often
overlooked, it also violated freedom of
expression, which is a point you made
very when in your op-ed in the Washington Post,
where you demonstrated that the killing
of Jamal Khashoggi, a resident of the United
States, also sought to violate deeply held norms. We all should be
concerned whatever our citizenship about
violations of free speech, free press around the world. As I like to say and have
said, it’s now the case that censorship anywhere
is censorship everywhere. And that certainly applies in
the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The focus I also wanted
to bring to this, which was the
genesis for the piece that I did in the
Washington Post that you referred
to because I wanted to make the case that if
you just cared or looked at it from the standpoint of
freedom of speech and press in the United States, just from
the standpoint of the First Amendment, he was murdered
in significant part because of his exercise of
First Amendment rights in the United States
through things that he said and wrote,
especially in the Washington Post. And so it raises this
profoundly deep concern as to what the
United States will do and can do legally when
one of the people or more of the people who are exercising
their First Amendment rights are then killed,
murdered, or otherwise penalized for that speech
by actors and states around the world. But it made clear that there
is under existing United States law, a basis for pursuing
a criminal investigation from the United States into this
terrible episode that happened in the consulate in Turkey. Not only to begin
an investigation, but if the government,
federal government, identified they felt were
the perpetrators that there was a basis for initiating the
criminal action against them. Not having done that sends
a frightening concerning message to United
States citizens and all people who exercise
their First Amendment rights, that the United States
government will not in a sense protect them against foreign
actors who penalize them, even commit murder because of
the exercise of their rights. I’m certainly hoping that
short of a federal level investigation of the nature
that you are describing, I still believe that either
the FBI could do something, given its mandate. If not, the FBI, then the
Director of National security could do something. I’m also hoping that the various
ongoing suits around the CIA analysis of the killings,
of the responsibilities– that these information
will eventually be made public either
through a formal request, through a court case, through
the Congress, and so on. So I remain
moderately optimistic that within the
United States, there will be sufficient commitment
to the values you’ve described. And sufficient courage
to move with either one of those actions. Yes. The key point is
that people need to see that if you care about
the First Amendment exercise rights of free speech
and free press, you should be concerned about
how the government protects you by prosecuting and going
after perpetrators of crimes abroad against you for the
exercise of their rights. Absolutely. That’s one of the things that
the Khashoggi case makes. Extraterritorially. We should all be
concerned about anything that happens to journalists
or speakers around the world no matter what country
they come from. We should all be
concerned about that. Can you talk some,
Agnes, about what you found in the investigation
that you conducted as the special rapporteur? What I did find was that the
execution of Mr. Khashoggi was premeditated, that
it was well organized, that it was planned,
and that there is no other way to describe
it but as a state killing. I reached the conclusion that
it was the responsibility of the state of Saudi Arabia,
not of rogue actors, as they have tried to pretend, on
the basis of the evidence I have collected regarding the
organization of the killing. And on the basis of
international law, related to what amounts
to a state act, as opposed to what amount to an individual
act by individual actors. There is only one conclusion
that can be reached. That was a killing for which
the state of Saudi Arabia is directly responsible. That finding has been
rejected, and so far the state of Saudi
Arabia has refused to acknowledge its
responsibility as a state, and has placed the blame of some
fairly low key individuals that were part of the hit team. What I have also found is that
the state of Saudi Arabia, again, failed to investigate
the killing in good faith. Failed to cooperate with
the Turkish authorities in good faith. And there is strong
evidence pointing to the state of Saudi Arabia
cleaning up the crime scene so as to make it impossible
for the Turkish investigators to find any kind of evidence. And just finally,
as far as we know and as has been
reported in the press, our intelligence agencies also
agree with those conclusions? Well, according to the
leaks that had been provided by various media, yes. I did not rely on
this information because it was not
credible enough in terms of meeting my
standard of evidence. But everything that
I’ve read and heard, including directly by people who
were briefed by those agencies, yes, concur with my conclusion. Agnes Callamard,
thank you very much. Thank you.

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