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A number of major media figures and organizations have joined the growing list of major partners pulling out of a high- profile event in Saudi Arabia as the disappearance — and possible murder — of dissident Jamal Khashoggi draws continued condemnation from around the world.
CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg and The Financial Times have all withdrawn as media sponsors from the Oct. 23-25 Future Investment Initiative, which had been dubbed the “Davos of the Middle East,” joining The New York Times, which pulled out as a partner earlier this week.
Elsewhere, Viacom on Friday confirmed CEO Bob Bakish wouldn’t be attending, together with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi. Ariana Huffington, LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, The Economist’s editor-in-chief, Zanny Minton Beddoes, and CNBC anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin are also among the figures to have pulled out of the event.
“I’m very troubled by the reports to date about Jamal Khashoggi,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement late Thursday. “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.”
In a tweet, The Financial Times‘ chief communications and marketing officer, Fiona McDonnell, said: “The Financial Times will not be partnering with the FII conference in Riyadh while the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi remains unexplained.”
On Friday, Bloomberg Media CEO Justin B. Smith tweeted: “Bloomberg will no longer serve as a media partner for the Future Investment Initiative and I will no longer be attending as a Speaker. As we do with every major event in the region, we plan to cover any news from our regional news bureau.”
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and open critic of Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman, hasn’t been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials have claimed that he was murdered soon after he entered the building by a hit squad of 15 assassins who had flown in from Riyadh that day.
Separate from the conference, Richard Branson on Friday became the highest-profile business figures to put his business with Saudi Arabia on hold, revealing he had pulled out of talks over $1 billion deal with the country’s Public Investment Fund over potential space projects.
“What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government,” he said in a statement.
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