The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists, today supported the call by two U.N. special rapporteurs for an investigation into the hacking of The Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos by the Saudi government.
According to media reports, Bezos’s phone was hacked in 2018 by deploying spyware in a WhatsApp message sent to him from a phone used by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.
The U.N. special rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, and the special rapporteur for freedom of expression, David Kaye, issued a joint statement demanding that further investigations be conducted by the “US and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents”.
“The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia. The allegations reinforce other reporting pointing to a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents and those of broader strategic importance to the Saudi authorities, including nationals and non-nationals. These allegations are relevant as well to ongoing evaluation of claims about the Crown Prince’s involvement in the 2018 murder of Saudi and Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi”, the rapporteurs said in the statement.
IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad supported the rapporteurs’ statement.
“The allegation that Saudi Arabia sought to hack Jeff Bezos’s phone in order to influence The Washington Post’s coverage is deeply disturbing”, Prasad said. “We support the call for a prompt and thorough investigation. The international community must prove that it is able and willing to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the gross rights violations it has thus far managed to conduct with impunity.”
Jamal Khashoggi was killed on October 2, 2018 inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to obtain documents to marry his fiancée. An enquiry led by Callamard concluded that Khashoggi was the victim of a of “a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law”.
Saudi Arabia charged 11 people for the killing of the journalist and held a trial shrouded in secrecy and which has not been shown to be credible. In December 2019, the court handed down a death sentence to 5 of the accused, who were found guilty of committing the murder, but released two people accused who are close to the crown prince.