Vol. 5, Issue 3 (2019)
Challenges to freedom of expression in the digital World: Lessons from Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Journalist
Author(s): Dr. S Krishnan, Nighat Nazir
Abstract: Two developments the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Journalist leading to the Arab Spring, and the Panama Papers releases have demonstrated individual’s capacities in advancing free expression, transparency, and social change through the use of online and social media movements. However, these events have also highlighted new sets of challenges and threats that interfere with, and restrict, such media usage. On October 2nd, 2018 Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi government, walked into the country’s consulate in Istanbul, where he was murdered. It is suspected he was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents inside the consulate. The Washington Post ran what is called his final column, which lamented the lack of freedoms across the Arab world, which has resulted in mass amounts of its citizens to be uninformed or misinformed. Dreaming of an oasis for freedom of expression, he criticized governments “whose very existence relies on the control of information” that “have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate.” Was Khashoggi’s death a result of governments attempt to control the flow of information and thus was hesilenced for his criticism of the Saudi government? This recent development has demonstrated the capacities of individuals and movements in advancing free expression, transparency and social change through the use of media, whether print, online or social in response to Khashoggi’s death. However, it also highlights a new set of challenges and threats that interfere with, and restrict, such media uses. Expansion in technologies like Facebook; Twitter and Instagram played a vital role for the promotion of freedom of expression on the Internet. While at the same time, the media has remained a powerful tool in making or breaking the access of information to the ordinary citizen. Media can manipulate evidence and distort information and can also use the same set of information to portray contradictory meanings and interpretations of the information. In Europe and US media corporations such as BBC and CNN are some of the most powerful tools to promulgate information and propaganda at national level and international level. This includes online news blogs, websites, magazines and live broadcast news channel and programs. One prime example was the instance of Terry Jones and Greet Wilder where media was used as a forum to express their anti-Islamic views. Acting upon the notion of freedom of speech no authority prevented them from promulgating hate speech against Islam. Blasphemous cartoon contest was the heinous act which hearting the religious sentiments on the name of freedom of In this article, an analytical framework for understanding and investigating these contemporary restrictions to freedom of expression, based on the dimensions of information control, access to infrastructure, critical resources and applications, surveillance, and physical repression will be presented. The overview takes into account current trends such as the use of intermediaries in control regimes, and provides a global perspective that incorporates restrictions in both the East and West. The ‘fighting words doctrine’ in the context of freedom of expression will be thoroughly examined. How free expression advocates have contested these practices, and discuss whether their agendas confirm the issue areas highlighted above will also be outlined. The restrictions to, and the advocacy for, free online communication demonstrate some of the key struggles and contestations on freedom of expression in the current digital media environment, the strategic points of intervention by different actors (states, businesses, and various civil society groups), and the requirements for “modern freedom of expression” will all be examined.