Pro-Saudi government demonstrators drowned out a vigil held for Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in London on the one-year anniversary of the journalist’s assassination.
As a handful of activists held candles and photos of Khashoggi, pro-government demonstrators across the street chanted support for the crowned prince Mohamad Bin Salman over a microphone.
“I didn’t know they were going to be here,” said Josh Cooper, the deputy director at ALQST, an organization that advocates for human rights in Saudi Arabia. He helped organize the vigil along with English Pen, a group that aims to defend writers in the UK and around the world, and Reporters Without Borders, an NGO that advocates for media freedom.
Cooper said the demonstrators could grab attention away from them here, but they can’t do the same to the other hundreds of Khashoggi supporters in Paris, Washington and Istanbul, where protests for the Saudi journalist are also being held.
Vigils and protests around the world have been happening today to commemorate Khashoggi after tapes of his murder surfaced recently, revealing disturbing details of the killing inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey on 2 October 2018.
Cooper said he was there to honour the journalist that was brutally murdered and other currently imprisoned activists and reporters in Saudi Arabia.
“The situation hasn’t been resolved, his body hasn’t been returned to his family,” said Kat Lucas, the program manager at English Pen. “There is a lot that still needs to be done to ensure justice.”
She said many people around the world resonate with Khashoggi because he lost his life for his thoughts. “We are speaking out on behalf of writers all over the world,” Lucas said.
Amidst the candle lighting ceremony, pro-government demonstrators broadcasted “leave, you don’t belong here” while holding signs saying MBS was modernizing Saudi Arabia by fighting for women’s rights and supporting Yemen.
“This government is not as bad as the media shows,” said Hassan Hassan, as he waved the Saudi flag. “We are here to support Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He also said he didn’t know that today was the death anniversary of Khashoggi until last night, but had planned to be part of this demonstration a week prior.
Jamal Khashoggi was living in a self-imposed exile in the U.S. because he often criticised the arrests of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia and the reform plans of the crown prince. On 2 October 2018, Khashoggi went to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul with his fiancée to complete some paperwork, but he never came out. Turkish officials soon claimed there was evidence that he was murdered in the consulate, but Saudi officials did not admit he had been murdered until more than two weeks later.
“Everyone should be able to write and express themselves freely without fear of being killed…governments have to pledge to do more to protect media freedom,” said Josh Cooper.
This article was written as a test assignment for a third party news organization.