The Western media coverage devoted to the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi proves the cynical adage that one person’s death is a tragedy, while millions of deaths are a mere statistic.
During the past four weeks since Khashoggi went missing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the case has been constantly in the news cycle. Contrast that with the sparse coverage in Western news media of the horrific Saudi war in Yemen during the past four years.
The United Nations has again recently warned that 16 million in Yemen were facing death from starvation as a result of the war waged on that country by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab partners, with the crucial military support of the US, Britain and France. That imminent death toll hardly registered a response from Western media or governments.
Last week, some 21 Yemeni workers at a vegetable packing plant near the Red Sea port of Hodeida were killed after US-backed Saudi warplanes launched air strikes. Again, hardly any condemnation was registered by Western governments and media pundits.
Admittedly, some politicians in the US and Europe are lately expressing disdain over the Saudi-led war and the possible culpability of Western governments in crimes against humanity.
Nevertheless, in proportion to the public concern devoted to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi there is a staggering indifference in relation to Yemen. How is possible that the fate of one man can provoke so much emotion and angst, while millions of children in Yemen appear to be shrugged off as “collateral damage”.
Partly, the circumstances of Khashoggi’s murder by a Saudi death squad are more easily visualized. His connections as a journalist working for the Washington Post also ensures ample interest from other media outlets. Photos of the 59-year-old Saudi dissident and his personal story of going to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain official papers for an upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiancée also provided a human identity, which then garners public empathy.
Another factor is the macabre plot to trap him, torture and dismember his body by a Saudi hit team who appear to have been acting on orders from senior Saudi regime officials.