The Financial Times declared today that it will pull out of Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative amid pressure after a Saudi journalist went missing this week.
The newspaper followed CNN’s move to withdraw its participation from the FII, along with Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, after journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The event, scheduled to take place in Riyadh between 23rd and 25th October and dubbed ‘Davos in the Desert’, had named CNBC, Bloomberg, and Fox Business Network as partners.
In a statement today, Lionel Barber, editor of the FT, said: “The Financial Times will not be partnering with the FII conference in Riyadh while the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi remains unexplained.”
Khashoggi has been missing since 2nd October after entering Turkey’s Saudi consulate, with Turkish authorities alleging that the journalist was assassinated inside its walls by a Saudi hit-squad.
The FT’s decision follows the New York Times’ withdrawal as media partner on Wednesday, with columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who was to moderate a panel at the conference, declaring on Twitter that he was “terribly distressed” by the journalist’s disappearance.
Official statement: The Financial Times will not be partnering with the FII conference in Riyadh while the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi remains unexplained
— Lionel Barber (@lionelbarber) 12 October 2018
On Friday, Khosrowshahi announced in a statement: “I’m very troubled by the reports to date about Jamal Khashoggi. We are following the situation closely, and unless a substantially different set of facts emerges, I won’t be attending the FII conference in Riyadh.”
The Uber CEO’s concerns are striking, since the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, invested $3.5 billion in the company in 2016, while Uber’s largest shareholder Softbank gains much of its investment capital from Saudi Arabia.
Concerns about Khashoggi’s welfare escalated after Turkish authorities revealed today that audio recordings exist documenting the journalist’s murder and dismemberment.