Narratives and information management

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  • Where it went wrong for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is when all different narratives surfaced

With the over-arching nature of media in bridging the gap between states and their citizens, much of the information is lost in how it is interpreted. ‘Two sides of the same coin’ has been exemplified to exhibit a war on narratives which showcases a range of opinions, versions of a distorted truth. In this are multitude of opportunities to create a group of followers, influenced people who further perpetuate their versions. As a famous Pakistani journalist said, an opinion tweeted enough times becomes the truth, narratives with the greatest following become agreed-upon values and truth that goes on to become a part of history.

States at play

The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi is one such instance. However, where it went wrong for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is when all different narratives surfaced and were picked up by the media to create a solidarity campaign for the slain journalist. Kashoggi disappeared on 2nd October and since then a series of news stories have made rounds on the internet. With the KSA opening up before the world via free world press which isn’t sanctioned inside the kingdom, the whole matter was up in a frenzy. With an international outcry, Turkey accusing the KSA, KSA denouncing any involvement, and USA turning a blind eye to the matter; it all came down to not the states but the men running these that set the precedent.

US, the champion of human rights, the primary advocate has stood on the other side of history for the ideals it determined and proclaimed to be followed, going into the new world. KSA is known for its strict, Shariah laws and the suppression of free speech, and so ambushing the journalist, one with an agenda to defame his state, in a foreign country; a state known for its blunt defiance of the current Saudi regime, has brought the regime in the middle of a controversy which can’t be bought away this time. Turkey’s adamance in blaming the KSA from the start has added a new dimension to the relations between both states and left very little room, if any, for any future composite dialogue. However, with the pressures of international community tightening in on the noose around the Kingdom, the KSA’s chief prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb issued a statement agreeing that Kashoggi’s murder was in fact premeditated and not a result of a brawl, or that he left the Saudi Consulate on 2nd October (the day he went missing), unharmed. This goes on to show that there is perhaps more to this story than is being told to the world; an opinion reiterated by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for the KSA to reveal “the whole truth” about the murder.

All over, news of Kashoggi’s murder is helping the Saudi-led alliance in Yemen buy time to strategise on the next course of action

While the US remains quiet about the murder, there is an outrage in the world at large, specifically amongst the European Union countries who’ve sought to ‘punish’ the Saudis by suspending all weapon sales agreements. Germany has already banned all of its arms exports, but will this be a unanimous decision by all members? Far from it.

Facts ignored

At the epicentre of this free world is an inherent bigotry. A specific journalist, from a kingdom which has infiltrated terrorists in other regions, supported war on its own people in alliance with the ‘enemies of the religion’, suppressed rights of its people, all the while getting full-blown support from other western countries. While the kingdom’s riches grow, blockades on its border with a much smaller, poorer state has devastated an entire population of a country for a mere freedom struggle. There is enough technology to map out the Houthi rebels, and an infinite pool of weapons to sustain the devastation and European economies, the kingdom has sided with the latter. Hence, the conflict persists but that is only because the other side, the rebels, are working along with ‘other regional powers’. In the midst of this puppetry, one wonders if the same person is pulling strings from both sides. But this depredation, in every sense of the word, has left a scar on the present-day history.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has estimated that Saudi-led coalition air attacks have caused almost two-thirds of reported civilian deaths. The World Food Programme has warned that Yemen is on the brink of a full-blown famine, with 18 million of its 29 million population food insecure, 8.4 million severely so. These statistics are daunting. These aren’t just statistics, these are unarmed people, caught in between conflict.

All over, news of Kashoggi’s murder is helping the Saudi-led alliance in Yemen buy time to strategise on the next course of action. Perhaps my narrative is also from a camp to divert the attention away from the cause of freedom of speech. Perhaps not. But each time there is media frenzy and an international outcry over a controversy, trace back to the news from last week, and find the underlying truths missing from popular narratives.