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As the UN jabs nervously at the truth about Khashoggi, remember how often journalists’ deaths are brushed aside

It’s encouraging to hear that Agnes Callamard, the UN’s execution expert, is at last in Istanbul to lead the “independent international inquiry” into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Better late than never, perhaps, but the old UN donkey clip-clops upon the world stage according to the politics and courage of the panjandrums beside the East River in New York.

Thus Callamard arrived all of four months after Khashoggi was butchered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. And she is now politely asking the Saudis themselves – “respectfully”, she tells us – to give her access to the murder scene “at some stage”.

As we all know, Khashoggi wrote the truth about Saudi Arabia, was lured to his country’s consulate in Istanbul, got strangled, chopped up and secretly buried. And if we’re going to come down hard on those who kill members of our journalistic profession – alas, we’ll have to put aside for the moment all those Turkish journos banged up in their own country – Callamard has made a start. As opposed to all those like the boss of the Morgan Stanley investment bank, James Gorman, and the president of Switzerland, Ueli Maurer, who are keen to get back to business with Saudi Arabia. 

“We have long since dealt with the Khashoggi case”, Maurer has announced. Common sense, I suppose. But then there’s very little chance that Gorman or Maurer will be lured to a Saudi embassy, strangled, sawed into bits and dumped in an unknown grave.

But that’s not quite my point. What I’m really asking is why the killing of one Arab journalist is more equal than the killing of other Arab journalists? Why, for example, is the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, a friend and colleague of many of us, of infinitely more pressing importance than the fate of Yaser Murtaja?

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