Washington, D.C.- The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed dismay Monday that President Joe Biden failed to meaningfully address press freedom and journalists’ rights during his Middle East tour last week.
“The U.S. effectively shrugged its shoulders over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, did not push for the release of journalists jailed in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and did not commit to an FBI-led investigation into the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “To add insult to injury, we had to watch his fist bump and abysmal cozying up to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man that U.S. intelligence said approved Khashoggi’s murder. Journalists in the region – and the world – are sadly more vulnerable after this trip.”
Biden’s Middle East visit started in Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he failed to meet with the family of Abu Akleh, whom the U.S. State Department concluded was “likely” killed by the Israeli military in May. Biden’s trip continued to Saudi Arabia, where he met with bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Ahead of the trip, CPJ called on Biden to raise press freedom issues during his meeting with regional leaders. Egypt was the world’s third worst jailer of journalists in CPJ’s 2021 prison census.
“President Biden’s failure to hold leaders to account for the murders and jailings of journalists sends a message to governments everywhere that they can suppress the media and get away with it,” said CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg. “The president said human rights and democracy would be a hallmark of his foreign policy. So far, Biden’s actions have fallen far short of his words.”