On the second anniversary of the assassination of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and with 50 days left until the November 2020 G20 summit in Riyadh, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has launched a ‘50-day clock’ and petition urging G20 capitals to obtain concrete press freedom improvements in Saudi Arabia – starting with the release of the country’s 34 jailed journalists.

From 21 to 22 November, Saudi Arabia is set to host the G20 summit virtually from Riyadh, despite holding one of the world’s worst records on press freedom. RSF has launched a petition calling on G20 capitals to hold the Saudi government to account and act to obtain concrete press freedom improvements in Saudi Arabia in the 50 days left until the summit.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most prolific jailers of journalists, with 34 journalists currently languishing behind bars in connection with their work. Many of these journalists have been mistreated in detention. RSF has consistently campaigned for their release, and raised their cases directly with the Saudi government in an unprecedented press freedom mission to the country in April 2019.

This is in addition to continued impunity for the horrific murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on 2 October 2018. A closed trial with no public or media present reportedly resulted in the sentencing of eight unidentified defendants to prison sentences and the acquittal of three others – falling far short of international standards. No independent international investigation has taken place.

“Without addressing these serious ongoing violations in Saudi Arabia, G20 members risk severely damaging their own reputations. But we believe the Riyadh summit could instead present an opportunity to secure concrete improvements. We call on G20 capitals – from London to Berlin – to urge the Saudi government to release the country’s 34 jailed journalists and begin to turn their dire press freedom record around,” said RSF general secretary Christophe Deloire.

The Saudi government has stated that the three main aims of the 2020 G20 presidency are “empowering people,” safeguarding the planet,” and “shaping new frontiers.” But these goals cannot be achieved if G20 members and, in particular, the state holding the presidency, do not respect their international press freedom obligations. 

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