U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media in Maryland on June 14, 2022. CPJ called on Biden to ensure his upcoming Middle East trip does not normalize the killing and imprisonment of journalists. (Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein)

CPJ calls on Biden not to normalize journalist killings and imprisonment ahead of Middle East trip

New York, June 14, 2022 – In response to Tuesday’s announcement of U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia to meet with regional leaders, the Committee to Protect Journalists reiterated a call for the U.S. government to press for accountability for the killings and imprisonment of journalists.

Biden plans to meet with regional leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during the trip, scheduled to begin on July 13.

“President Biden’s planned meeting with Israeli, Saudi, and Egyptian leaders next month runs the risk of a return to business as usual, despite overwhelming evidence that their governments targeted journalists,” said CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad. “Biden should not normalize the killing and jailing of journalists, but should instead demand accountability and the release of journalists behind bars.”

The Biden administration’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report in February 2021 blaming bin Salman for the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently called for an “independent, credible” investigation into the May 11 killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Egypt was the world’s the third-worst jailer of journalists on CPJ’s 2021 prison census, and the government continues to hold bloggers such as Alaa Abdelfattah in deplorable conditions.