WATERVILLE — Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was embraced by the Saudi monarchy for decades and served as an adviser to the state until Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud rose to power and ordered him to stop talking to the media.

Khashoggi ultimately came to the U.S., worked as a columnist for the Washington Post, and wrote about women activists who were imprisoned, tortured and assaulted for speaking out. Last year at this time, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain a marriage license and was never seen again. He was tortured, murdered and dismembered in an assassination the crown prince insists he did not order.

Khashoggi is one of 55 journalists and 11 media workers who were killed last year.

Martin Smith, a veteran filmmaker and journalist with PBS Frontline, speaks during the Lovejoy Award panel discussion Friday at Lorimer Chapel at Colby College in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

On Friday, Colby College honored those 66 individuals posthumously with the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award – named in memory of  an 1826 alumnus of Colby from Albion who was murdered in 1837 in Illinois while defending his newspaper from a pro-slavery mob.

More than 400 journalists, students and their parents, educators and area residents packed Lorimer Chapel on the Colby campus Friday for the 67th Lovejoy Convocation and to hear a panel discussion focusing on the human costs of a free and open press and the dangers journalists face while pursuing stories that inform global understanding.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News veteran correspondent and former NPR bureau chief in Baghdad and Kabul, moderated the discussion with Hala Al-Dosari, the Washington Post’s inaugural Jamal Khashoggi Fellow, and Martin Smith, a filmmaker, journalist for PBS’ Frontline and founder of Rain Media. Smith’s  Frontline documentary on Khashoggi’s murder was aired this week. Like Lovejoy, Lawrence grew up in Albion.

Prior to Khashoggi’s killing, both Al-Dosari and Smith had conversations with him. They said he was at first a Saudi insider, a spokesman for the regime.

“He was an insider, he was part of the system, but he had this urge in him to speak to the truth as close as he could go,” Smith said. “It wasn’t that he had criticized the crown prince. He came out on a teleconference in a think tank in Washington and warned that we should be very careful how we look at the new incoming Trump administration.”

The crown prince felt Khashoggi was coming between him and the Trump administration, according to Smith.

Hala Al-Dosari, the Washington Post’s inaugural Jamal Khashoggi Fellow and a scholar-in-residence at the New York University School of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, takes part in a Lovejoy Award panel discussion Friday at Lorimer Chapel at Colby College in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Journalists in Saudi Arabia are controlled by the state in what they write, so the only real journalists are the public, according to Smith. People there are silenced, Al-Dosari said.

The television news show “60 Minutes” did a recent interview with the the crown prince in which he said he accepted responsibility for Khashoggi’s killing, but denied ordering his murder.

“I was quite upset with that interview,” Smith said, adding that when he met with the crown prince in 2018, the prince said the same thing.

“He was not taking any responsibility, truly, for having ordered that killing,” he said.

He added that Saudi officials knew Smith’s documentary was coming out and that it took a deeper look at the crown prince, so he did the “60 Minutes” interview to try to get out ahead of what Frontline reported. Smith said there was a lot of “teeth gnashing” in his home when the “60 Minutes” interview aired.

“They’ve spent more and more money, millions of dollars in Washington on lobbyists to try to spin their narrative,” Smith said.

There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that the Saudi prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder, according to Smith.

“This is the problem – he’s (the Saudi prince) not being subjected to a real investigation. You can not trust the Saudi court.”

Saudi officials claim it was a rogue killing and the United Nations has not pushed for an investigation, according to Smith.

Quil Lawrence, a veteran correspondent for NPR News, left, Hala Al-Dosari, center, the Washington Post’s inaugural Jamal Khashoggi Fellow and a scholar-in-residence at the New York University School of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, and Martin Smith, a veteran filmmaker and journalist with PBS Frontline, during the Lovejoy Award panel discussion Friday at Lorimer Chapel at Colby College in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Certainly, the Trump administration doesn’t want to see a robust investigation,” he said.

Smith and Al-Dosari discussed the role social media plays in the dissemination of truth on the part of activists and journalists, as well as the opposite – state-controlled entities airing untruths.

In the question-and-answer part of the panel discussion, Russell Workman, a high school teacher, said people must process an overwhelming amount of information coming from social media and other venues. He asked what panelists thought the implications are for education in that respect.

Smith said it is an uphill climb and a challenge for anyone in the field of education.

“We all have to be smarter, to wend our way through the noise we are subjected to on a daily basis,” he said.

Both Al-Dosari and Smith said it is people’s responsibility to amplify the voices of those not able to speak.

“These voices can be heard and I think the job for all of us is to write and speak and be heard,” Smith said.

Lawrence added that it is important for people to attend and support forums such as the Lovejoy discussion, speak to friends and family, say “we care about these issues,” and let people on the fence know that they can speak up, too.

Colby President David Greene welcomed the crowd. He said that this year the college did something different than in the 67 years the Lovejoy Convocation has been held in honoring the 66 journalists and media workers. He said the Colby Lovejoy Award selection committee, headed up by David Shribman, was struck by the unprecedented number of reporters and photojournalists who were killed in 2018 and decided to honor them. He cited his gratitude for Shribman, vice president and executive editor (retired) of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who completes his chairmanship term this year.

“David is truly an extraordinary journalist,” he said.

As the names of the journalists who were killed last year scrolled on a large screen in the chapel, Greene said journalists are under attack in the U.S. and all around the country. He asked for a moment of silence to pay tribute to those who died in 2018 and “consider the ultimate sacrifice they made.”

Past Lovejoy Award recipients include Chuck Plunkett (2018), Alec MacGillis (2017), Alissa Rubin (2016), Katherine Boo (2015), James Risen (2014), A.C. Thompson (2013) and Bob Woodward (2012).


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