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More media sponsors pull out of Saudi conference after journalist disappears

More media sponsors pull out of Saudi conference after journalist disappears
12 Oct
2018

Most of the news outlets that had agreed to sponsor a high-profile business conference in Saudi Arabia have now pulled out following the unexplained disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Bloomberg is the latest media organization to withdraw.

"Bloomberg will no longer serve as a media partner for the Future Investment Initiative," a spokesperson said. "As we do with every major event in the region, we plan to cover any news from our regional news bureau."

The US media group last year signed a deal with a Saudi publisher to run an Arabic language financial news network. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the status of that deal.

CNN, CNBC and the Financial Times said earlier on Friday that they would not sponsor the conference, which is known as "Davos in the desert."

Hosted by Mohammed bin Salman and scheduled to begin on October 23, the event is designed to showcase the Saudi crown prince's Vision 2030 plan to break the country's dependence on oil.

But some media partners have pulled out as concerns mount over the fate of the prominent Saudi journalist, contributor to the Washington Post and critic of the Saudi regime.

Khashoggi has been missing for more than a week after going to the Saudi consulate general in Istanbul to obtain wedding papers. Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that shows Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN.

Saudi Arabia firmly denies any involvement in his disappearance.

CNN said in a statement on Friday that it has "withdrawn its participation" in the conference. CNBC said on Twitter that it was pulling out due to "continuing questions" over the journalist's disappearance.

Finola McDonnell, chief communications and marketing officer at the Financial Times, said on Twitter that the UK newspaper would not partner with the conference while Khashoggi's disappearance "remains unexplained."

The New York Times pulled its sponsorship earlier this week. Andrew Ross Sorkin, a columnist for the newspaper who also works as an anchor for CNBC, tweeted that he was "terribly distressed" by the disappearance of Khashoggi and would no longer participate. He had been due to moderate three sessions.

Zanny Minton Beddoes, the editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong have also canceled plans to speak.

The remaining media sponsors for the investment conference are Fox Business Network, Japanese media company Nikkei and Saudi-owned television channel Al Arabiya.

Fox Business Network is monitoring the situation, according to a spokesperson for the network.

Companies beyond the media industry are also rethinking their involvement.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who was scheduled to speak at the event about the future of transportation, said he was withdrawing.

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