After more than two weeks of repeated denials, Saudi Arabia has officially confirmed the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, acknowledging that the outspoken critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was killed at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, though the details remain unclear.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, speaking to Fox News in the U.S., said Sunday that Khashoggi, 59, died in a “rogue operation,” in which “individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had.”
Seeking to shield the crown prince, who is effectively in charge of running Saudi Arabia, from the international outrage sparked by Khashoggi’s disappearance and death, al-Jubeir called the killing a “huge and grave mistake” and said those involved in the consulate tried to cover it up.
“We are determined to uncover every stone, we are determined to find out all the facts, and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,” the foreign minister told Fox News.
But doubts remain in the international community over whether the admission really means that the Saudi government is willing to come clean, especially over any involvement by the crown prince.
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U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin on Sunday called Saudi Arabia’s admission a “good first step but not enough,” while the leaders of Germany, France and Britain have demanded more information about how the Washington Post columnist was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to pick up a document for his upcoming marriage. Khashoggi’s columns criticizing the crown prince went out in Arabic to his 1.6 million Twitter followers .
Mnuchin and several top execs from U.S. media companies, including CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business, and Viacom, bowed out of their scheduled attendance at a Saudi investment conference being held this week in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
Hollywood, too, has been reassessing its ties to Saudi Arabia, where the crown prince recently lifted a ban on movie theaters. Entertainment and media moguls have been courting Saudi Arabian officials and potential partners, and exhibitors including AMC and Vue International have committed to build multiplexes in the kingdom.
The upcoming MENA Cinema Forum to be held Oct. 28 and 29 in Dubai may provide a forum to gauge the impact of Khashoggi’s death on the film industry in the region.