Friday 20 September 2019

'Time' naming Khashoggi as person of year is an empty gesture

 

Persons of year: Jamal Khashoggi (left) and the wives of jailed journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on the cover of ‘Time’
Persons of year: Jamal Khashoggi (left) and the wives of jailed journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on the cover of ‘Time’

Comment: Robert Fisk

It's always good to have our profession honoured, albeit that the living martyrs of journalism should be accompanied by the ghost of another. But the moment I learned of 'Time' magazine's person of the year front cover - the award going to Jamal Khashoggi and the other "guardians" who have "taken great risks in pursuit of greater truths" - I remembered Spielberg's movie 'Bridge of Spies'. When captured Soviet agent Rudolf Abel's defence lawyer (Tom Hanks) asks Abel (Mark Rylance) if he is worried, he replies: "Would it help?"

The right question. Would it make any difference? Is 'Time's' choice of its 2018 front page going to change anything? Or was it chiefly aimed at Trump? The raving lunatic in the White House was its "person of the year" in 2016, just before he took office. He said he expected the accolade again this year, and indeed he's the 2018 runner-up. If he had known this, Khashoggi himself would surely turn in his grave - wherever the Saudis eventually reveal it to be.

But fair enough. Trump is fighting a war against truth, and it's a noble gesture to whack a crackpot president by honouring those who oppose his kind of mendacity, even unto death.

Many believe - as I suspect - that the five staff at the Annapolis newspaper would be alive today if Trump had not already accused us all of being "enemies of the people".

The "enemies" and journalists like Khashoggi, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, are - or should be regarded as - "friends of the people". But they are clearly regarded as enemies by Trumpites and supporters of dictator Duterte and the military masters of Myanmar.

Of course, I did look at 'Time's' list of names to see if Yasser Murtaja, the brave Palestinian cameraman shot dead by an Israeli sniper in April, made it to their hall of honour. He was hailed by 'The Nation' magazine. Like Khashoggi, he gave his life for telling - or in his case, filming - the truth, the Palestinian protests at the Gaza border. But maybe he wasn't filming a truth which Americans or 'Time' magazine are ready to accept, or to talk too much about without becoming "controversial": the oppression of the people of Gaza. And maybe Murtaja was shot by the wrong people.

After all, if you drag Khashoggi's corpse up onto the throne of martyrs, you know that it's going to annoy Mohammed bin Salman - accused by the CIA and numerous senators of arranging Jamal's demise - and you know that he remains a chum of Trump and that all this will upset him.

While it's good to see that the enemies of dictators are acknowledged for their courage, it does raise a few questions about 'Time' itself.

For far too long, it supported some pretty gruesome wars around the globe. Vietnam comes to mind, in the conflict's early years. (© The Independent)

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News