Blogs > Liberty and Power > Journalist Suspended from National Press Club after Questioning Saudi Regime’s Legitimacy

Nov 22, 2011

Journalist Suspended from National Press Club after Questioning Saudi Regime’s Legitimacy

Journalist Sam Husseini has been suspended from the National Press Club for allegedly violating its rule against “boisterous and unseemly conduct or language.” What did he do?

He asked the following of Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia:

There's been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime, I want to know what legitimacy your regime has, sir. You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture detention of activist, you squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain, you tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt and indeed you continue to oppress your own people. What legitimacy does you regime have—other than billions of dollars and weapons?

[Moderator Peter] Hickman: Sam, let him answer. 

Unidentified speaker: What was the question?  

Turki: [motioning Husseini to the podium] Would you like to come and speak here? Would you like to come and speak here? 

Husseini: I'd like you to try to answer that question. 

Turki: I will try my best sir. Well sir, I don't know if you've been to the kingdom or not? 

Husseini: What legitimacy do you have, sir?

Turki: Have you been to the kingdom?

Husseini: What legitimacy does your regime have, other than oppressing your own people? 

William McCarren [Executive director of the National Press Club, who had come up to Husseini and was literally-face-to-face]: Put your question and let him answer, we have a whole room of people. 

Husseini [to McCarren]: He [Turki] asked me a question. He asked me and I responded. 

Turki: No you did not respond. [off audio, some back and forth continues between McCarren and Husseini, see below] 

Hickman: Go ahead [Turki]—

Turki: Anyway ladies and gentlemen I advise anybody who has these questions to come to the kingdom and see for themselves. I don't need to justify my country's legitimacy. We're participants in all of the international organizations and we contribute to the welfare of people through aid program not just directly from Saudi Arabia but through all the international agencies that are working throughout the world to provide help and support for people. We admit this, as I said that we have many challenges inside our country and those challenges we are hoping to address and be reformed by evolution, as I said, and not by revolution. So that is the way that we are leading, by admitting that we have shortcomings. Not only do we recognize the shortcomings, but hopefully put in place actions and programs that would overcome these shortcomings. I have mentioned the fact that when you call Saudi Arabia a misogynistic country that women in Saudi Arabia can now not only vote, but also participate as candidates in elections and be members of the Shura Council. And I just refer you to your own experience to your women's rights, when did your women get right to vote? After how many years since the establishment of the United States did women get to vote in the United States? Does that mean that before they got the vote that United States was an illegitimate country? According to his definition, obviously. So, until, when was it—1910 when women got to vote—from 1789 to 1910 United States was illegitimate? This is how you should measure things, by how people recognize their faults and try to overcome them. 

Husseini:—So are you saying that Arabs are inherently backward? 

Hickman: Sam, that's enough—this lady to the right, you're next.

Read Husseini’s blog post and video here.

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