Skip to main content

Saudi Arabia 'censored' criticism by top economist during T20 summit

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz criticised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Stiglitz shed light on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia during his virtual participation at the Think 20 summit hosted by Riyadh (Screengrab)

Saudi Arabia censored a speech given by Noble Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz after he had criticised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and imprisoning women's rights activists. 

'We cannot pause but a moment and think of a great journalist like Khashoggi mercilessly killed with those behind the perpetration of this heinous crime having impunity'

- Joseph Stiglitz

During his address to the Think 20 (T20) summit on Sunday, Stiglitz condemned bin Salman (known as MBS) for allowing the individuals who killed the journalist to escape any criminal convictions and the continued imprisonment of women's rights activists.  

"With this meeting being hosted by Saudi Arabia, as we reflect about these basic rights, we cannot pause but a moment and think of a great journalist like Khashoggi mercilessly killed with those behind the perpetration of this heinous crime having impunity," Stiglitz told the T20 summit. 

"We cannot but think too of the chill that puts on a free press. We cannot but think of the women being held in prison simply for the desire to excercise their rights as human beings.

"If this meeting does not come to terms with the violations of these human rights and those in other countries around the world, we cannot hope to achieve the inclusive societies for which we all strive."

'Constructive engagement'

The economist then held a moment's silence "in memory of Jamal Khashoggi and in honour of all those women being held in prison" by the Saudi authorities. 

Following his address, Saudi Arabia, which was hosting the meeting and is also hosting this year's G20 summit, censored the webcast for participants tuning in. 

'Cowering cowardly cowards in Saudi had to censor these words out of the T20 G20 recordings because MBS is terrified of hearing truthful criticism'

- Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN

Stiglitz gained the praise of a number of journalists and human rights activists, who applauded his decision to speak out against Saudi Arabia.

"If Joseph Stiglitz was a Saudi, he'd be in jail right like Salman al Oudah [a detained Saudi cleric]," commented Sarah Leah Whitson, a friend of Khashoggi and the executive director of the DAWN organisation that was founded in his honour. 

"Cowering cowardly cowards in Saudi had to censor these words out of the T20 G20 recordings because MBS is terrified of hearing truthful criticism." 

Samantha Power, former US ambassador to the UN, also praised Stiglitz for his "constructive engagement".

Bin Salman concluded the T20 summit at which Stiglitz was censored, and called for members of the G20 to work together in finding solutions for various global challenges. 

The decision to give Saudi Arabia the hosting rights for the G20 summit has led to various calls for a boycott.

US Democrats urged America to consider a boycott of the summit, while the European parliament also called on the EU not to attend.