Jamal Khashoggi's Last Column Before Disappearance Calls For Free Expression The column's publication is "kind of an acknowledgement to ourselves ... that we don't have much hope that we're going to be able to edit this one with him," the Post editorial page editor told NPR.
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Jamal Khashoggi's Last Column Before Disappearance Calls For Free Expression

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Jamal Khashoggi's Last Column Before Disappearance Calls For Free Expression

Jamal Khashoggi's Last Column Before Disappearance Calls For Free Expression

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On page A23 of today's Washington Post you can find the last column Jamal Khashoggi wrote before he disappeared. Khashoggi went missing on October 2. It looks increasingly likely that he is dead, a reality President Trump acknowledged this afternoon. Which means, as his editor writes in the note accompanying the column, today likely marks Khashoggi's last piece. Well, Fred Hiatt runs the Post's editorial page. And when I reached Hiatt at the newspaper today, he told me what happened to Khashoggi is a mystery but one that could be easily solved - no need for a huge, long investigation.

The Post, the reporters at The Washington Post, have been out front on investigating this story in terms of trying to piece together what may have happened. Based on information available to you, I have to ask. Do you believe he is dead?

FRED HIATT: You know, we held onto this column that he filed the day before he entered the consulate in the hopes that we could edit it with him as we normally did. And we waited, and we waited. And I think the fact that we published today is kind of an acknowledgment to ourselves as well as to the world that we don't have much hope that we're going to be able to edit this one with him or that we'll ever be getting another column from him. From everything we know, it seems as if he was a victim of a monstrous crime.

KELLY: I want to ask about the dual role that The Washington Post is playing here. There is of course a firewall between the newsroom and reporters and the editorial page, which you run, a firewall that's always there. But in this case, has it been tricky with Post reporters trying to aggressively investigate what happened even as your editorial page is calling on the Trump administration to do more to investigate what happened?

HIATT: No, I don't think so. I mean, you know, on the editorial side we're often taking positions.

KELLY: I know, but is it different when it's a position on one of your own?

HIATT: You know, we are all in the Post newsroom - the opinion side and the news side - I think everybody is feeling this very personally. And I think we're all determined to show that you can't do this to one of ours. This can't be a world where a government can lure a journalist to their own diplomatic compound in a foreign country and then, if the worst is true, dismember him and have him disappear.

KELLY: You just spoke there about feeling this personally. How has his disappearance affected your team and affected you?

HIATT: You know, it's very painful. First of all, he was well-loved by many people. You know, if this could happen to Jamal, it can happen to any journalist. And that's to my mind not the kind of world any of us want to live in.

KELLY: Of the many things that struck me about his last column that you published today, one is that he thanks the Post for publishing his work not only in English but in Arabic to reach obviously a Arabic-speaking and reading audience. And I want to ask how common a practice that is and why you chose to do that in his case.

HIATT: Because we see our mission as presenting a range of opinions across a wide ideological, diverse landscape, especially in countries where people can't get it from their own media. And Jamal was - you know, the reason he left Saudi Arabia was he felt he could no longer do it at home and that a lot of people who wanted to express themselves in Saudi Arabia were muzzled or imprisoned. And so he was willing to take some risks to do what they couldn't do. And if we can do it in their own language as well as in English, all the better.

KELLY: He writes in this last column about the regime in Saudi Arabia clamping down on the Internet. Do you have any way of tracking how widely read his columns have been either in English or Arabic in his home country in Saudi Arabia?

HIATT: So we have certainly seen when we translate our editorials or Jamal's pieces or other pieces into Arabic we get a big spike in readership from the region. One of the most heartbreaking things about this is that he was a patriot. He supported a lot of the reforms that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia says he's for. But he believed that the best way to accomplish them was to allow people to debate them and to express opinions. And in the long run, that's the way his country was going to succeed. And I think we're trying to contribute in that same vein.

KELLY: Fred Hiatt - he's the editorial page editor of The Washington Post and a colleague of Jamal Khashoggi. Thank you.

HIATT: Thank you.

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