Date :Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 | Time : 10:22 |ID: 74450 | Print

Western Media companies, executives pull out of Saudis’ business conference over disappearance of journalist

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SHAFAQNA– A growing list of Western executives and major  news media bail out of the annual investor conference scheduled to convene in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this month following accusations that the Saudi government ordered the murder of a Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

“What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government,” Branson said in a statement on Thursday evening.

The veteran Saudi journalist, 59, has been missing since last Tuesday when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork so he could remarry, and has not been seen since.

Turkish officials have told Middle East Eye that they know when and where in the building the veteran Saudi journalist was killed and are considering whether to dig up the consul-general’s garden to see whether his remains are buried there.

Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in his disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving. However, they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their claim and say that video cameras at the consolate were not recording at the time.

As leaks have emerged, focus has turned to the kingdom’s high-profile Future Investment Initiative conference, scheduled to be held in Riyadh later this month, with a handful of participants pulling out of the event over the past 24 hours.

Among those who have said they will no longer participate are Economist editor-In-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes and Andrew Ross Sorkin, a CNBC anchor and New York Times business journalist.

I’m terribly distressed by the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of his murder. I will no longer be participating in the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

— Andrew Ross Sorkin (@andrewrsorkin) October 11, 2018

The New York Times, CNN, Financial Times, CNBC and Bloomberg have pulled out of the event. Fox Business Network is still slated to appear at the event, according to the event website.

Uber Technologies Inc chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement he won’t attend the FII conference in Riyadh unless substantially different set of facts emerge. Arianna Huffington, who sits on Uber’s board, has also reportedly said she will no longer attend.

Viacom Inc CEO Bob Bakish, who was slated to speak at the conference, has decided to not attend the event, company spokesman Justin Dini said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon is scheduled to speak, as is Mastercard Inc CEO Ajay Banga. Representatives for both companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Another billionaire, Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL, also decided to distance himself from Saudi Arabia, saying he would no longer attend the event.

“In light of recent events, I have decided to put my plans on hold, pending further information regarding Jamal Khashoggi.”

Despite the growing outcry about Khashoggi’s purported murder, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed on Friday that he will attend the Saudi investment summit.

“If more information comes out and changes, we could look at that, but I am planning on going,” Mnuchin told CNBC.

The FT reported that Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, has pulled out of attending the conference.

Last year’s conference was held in part at the Ritz Carlton, which would serve just weeks later as a makeshift prison for hundreds of Saudi businessmen and figures accused of corruption by the state.

This year’s event has attracted some of the world’s business elite including Wall Street’s top bosses and executives from multinational media, tech and financial services companies, Middle East Monitor reported.

If last year’s conference served as a grand coming-out party for Crown Prince Mohammed, this year’s gathering is a symbol of the West’s deepening disillusionment with the young leader. No longer the bold reformer bent on modernizing his kingdom — a favorite of President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — he is now regarded as an impulsive, unreliable autocrat who falls back on crude tactics to crush dissent, New York Times mentioned.

 

Read more from shafaqna:

Saudi Arabia is facing political and economic isolation over Khashoggi’s fate

Khashoggi issue: the new Saudi challenge

 

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