Jeff Bezos has yet to make any public statements regarding the potential murder and dismemberment of one of his employees by the Saudi Arabian government.
Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2nd. The Turkish government later leaked that they had audio recordings of Khashoggi being beheaded and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate.
Khashoggi had previously been banned from his home country of Saudi Arabia for criticizing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s increasingly totalitarian and oppressive rule — who allegedly masterminded the operation that led to Khashoggi’s murder. The crown prince has worked hard to aggressively brand his tenure as a more progressive, moderate era.
Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, is perhaps more famously known as the founder of Amazon — the cloud-computing behemoth that has made him the richest man in the world. Amazon has ongoing business investments in the region, hoping to become “a leading cloud platform provider in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” according to job postings for their new “Head of Public Policy [Amazon Web Services] Saudi Arabia” position. This representatives’ main objective is to “develop, lead and implement Saudi Arabia government affairs advocacy objectives and policy/political priorities” for AWS.
According to the Saudi Press Agency — Saudi Arabia’s state-run media outlet — both Bezos and Prince Salman met in Seattle in March of 2018 to discuss “cooperation possibilities between Saudi Arabia and Amazon, as well as potential investment opportunities ahead of Saudi Vision 2030.”
Other Silicon Valley executives have also been courting the favor of Saudi Arabia’s nearly $29 billion cloud-computing market, which has been rapidly expanding thanks to Prince Salman’s investments in digitalizing Saudi Arabia. During his tour of the U.S. last year, he personally met with Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and many other top tech leaders.
Bezos himself has generally avoided a hands-on approach with the runnings of the Post, initially describing his role as being available “with advice from a distance.” However, he has occasionally met with individual high profile reporters, with the Post once running an article with the headline “Post owner Jeff Bezos flies reporter Jason Rezaian to U.S. after Iran release” featuring photos of Bezos posing next to the newly-freed Post reporter.
While Bezos has yet to publicly comment or respond, many other business leaders have spoken out against Khashoggi’s apparent death.
J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Google Cloud head Diane Greene, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi pulled out of an upcoming investment conference in Saudi Arabia alongside other top executives. Other high profile CEOs have also said they would not work with Saudi Arabia’s NEOM project, in which the country is investing $500 billion to build a city on the Saudi Arabian border to create more investment opportunities.
“It’s interesting that in a context where people are so publicly disavowing and disengaging that there’s not been a clear statement from the owner of the newspaper,” Félim McMahon, director at Berkeley law school’s Human Rights Center, told CNBC. “It’s legitimate to ask that person’s opinion.”
Representatives from Amazon and The Washington Post did not respond to requests for comment.