'Reporters Without Borders met officials in secret to advocate for release of 30 journalists as Kingdom’s ranking falls to 172 out of 180'
'Officials in Saudi Arabia privately complained about the kingdom’s low ranking on an influential press freedom index, less than one year after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi murder squad.
Campaigners at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Saudis aired their dismay at a series of unprecedented meetings with government officials in Riyadh. RSF has revealed to the Guardian that it held the confidential meetings in April to advocate for the release of 30 jailed journalists, an act that the press freedom group said was the “only way” for Saudi Arabia to assume the G20 presidency next year.
The urgent call comes less than a year after Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, was brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A recent UN report into the murder found “credible evidence” that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and other senior officials, were liable for the killing.
The RSF meetings, which included exchanges with Adel al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, and public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb, were kept secret because RSF said it had hoped that Saudi Arabia might release the journalists during Ramadan, but no such actions were taken.
“By meeting with high-level people, we can create little movements that create bigger movements,” said Christophe Deloire, RSF’s secretary-general. “We explained how their global image is totally terrible … and we tried to explain that what they have to do is to take action. They will never convince us or the general public that it is legitimate to have all those journalists in jail.”
Two RSF officials – Deloire and RSF’s UK bureau director, Rebecca Vincent – said that over the course of meetings over three days, several Saudi officials raised concerns and dismay at Saudi’s low ranking on RSF’s press freedom index, where it is ranked 172 out of 180. The officials seemed especially vexed at their proximity to North Korea, RSF said.'
Read more: Saudis vexed at low ranking on press freedom index after Khashoggi murder