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The Authors Guild and PEN America Call for Independent Investigation into Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance and Apparent Murder

His Excellency Mr. António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations Secretariat Building
405 E 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017

Cc:  Mr. Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, President, United Nations Security Council
Mr. Vojislav Šuc, President, United Nations Human Rights Council

Dear Secretary-General Guterres,

As writers, journalists, artists, and Members of PEN America and the Authors Guild, we write to express our grave concern about the apparent horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist, Washington Post contributor, and U.S. resident who disappeared in Istanbul on October 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate. If true, the murder of a journalist inside a diplomatic facility would constitute nothing less than an act of state terror intended to intimidate journalists, dissidents, and exiled critics the world over. The United Nations has rightly recognized the importance of ensuring the safety of journalists and fighting impunity for those who attack them with the publication of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, endorsed in 2012. In the spirit of that initiative, we respectfully call on you to immediately authorize an independent, international investigation into Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and apparent murder.

Since his disappearance, Turkish authorities have claimed to have evidence suggesting that Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered inside the consulate, and that the operation was likely carried out by a team including individuals very close to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, making it look extremely likely that the Crown Prince was behind Khashoggi’s assassination. After weeks of denying any involvement in his disappearance, on October 19 Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, claiming his death was the result of a “fight” during attempts to detain him. Global leaders have responded to the details of this admission with significant skepticism. More recently, Saudi authorities have said the murder was “premeditated,” though the details and culpability remain unclear.

The violent murder of a prominent journalist and commentator on foreign soil is a grave violation of human rights and a disturbing escalation of the crackdown on dissent in Saudi Arabia, whose government in recent years has jailed numerous writers, journalists, human rights advocates, and lawyers in a sweeping assault on free expression and association. It is also yet another data point in a global trend that has seen an increasing number of journalists imprisoned and murdered for their work. As writers and journalists ourselves, we fear the potential chilling effect of this trend, at a moment when the work of all those who would speak and expose the truth has never been more important.

The UN Plan of Action states: “The safety of journalists and the struggle against impunity for their killers are essential to preserve the fundamental right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” and goes on to say that attacks on journalists “[deprive] society as a whole of their journalistic contribution and [result] in a wider impact on press freedom where a climate of intimidation and violence leads to self censorship.” It is imperative that the United Nations send a clear, unquestionable message that a human rights violation of this gravity will not go without consequence.

We therefore respectfully call on you to immediately authorize an independent, international investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi that would lay the groundwork for identifying and holding accountable the perpetrators of this grievous crime.


Chimamanda Adichie
Wajahat Ali
K. Anthony Appiah
Reza Aslan
Margaret Atwood
Paul Auster
Deirdre Bair
Alec Baldwin
Amy Bloom
Roy Blount, Jr.
Judy Blume
Robert A. Caro
Rosanne Cash
Michael Chabon
Alexander Chee
Teju Cole
Pat Cummings
Michael Cunningham
Rita Dove
Jennifer Egan
Louise Erdrich
Jeffrey Eugenides
Oskar Eustis
Jules Feiffer
Dexter Filkins
Roxane Gay
Masha Gessen
Peter Gethers
Amitav Ghosh
James Gleick
John Green
Lev Grossman
Philip Gourevitch
Jessica Hagedorn
Daniel Handler
Siri Hustvedt
Mary Karr
Phil Klay
Jhumpa Lahiri
Chang-rae Lee
Min Jin Lee
Jill Lepore
Jonathan Lethem
Steven Levy
Mario Vargas Llosa
John R. MacArthur
Hisham Matar
D.T. Max
David Mazzucchelli
Colum McCann
Ian McEwan
Jay McInerney
Dinaw Mengestu
Claire Messud
Rick Moody
Honor Moore
Paul Muldoon
Herta Müller
Victor Navasky
Maggie Nelson
Celeste Ng
Cynthia Nixon
Joyce Carol Oates
Daniel Okrent
Susan Orlean
Mary Osborne
George H. Packer
Orhan Pamuk
Gregory Pardlo
Robert Pinsky
Douglas Preston
Francine Prose
Victoria Redel
David Remnick
Molly Ringwald
Roxana Robinson
J.K. Rowling
Arundhati Roy
Richard Russo
Esmeralda Santiago
George Saunders
Stacy Schiff
Alice Sebold
Elif Shafak
James Shapiro
Gary Shteyngart
Kiki Smith
Zadie Smith
Andrew Solomon
Stephen Sondheim
Alec Soth
Art Spiegelman
Richard Stengel
Patrick Stewart
TJ Stiles
Tom Stoppard
Meryl Streep
Jean Strouse
Elizabeth Strout
Rose Styron
Jonathan Taplin
Colm Toibin
Calvin Trillin
Monique Truong
Scott Turow
Anne Tyler
Ayelet Waldman
Nicholas Weinstock
Tobias Wolff
Bob Woodward