By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – CNN announced Friday it is dropping its involvement in a Saudi investment conference as concerns mount about a Saudi journalist who went missing after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The cable news network said it would no longer be participating in the Future Investment Initiative Conference via its communications department, making it the latest in a series of high-profile departures regarding the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, who has been missing since Oct. 2.
The Future Investment Initiative is hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and is part of his Vision 2030 plan to break the country's reliance on oil.
But Khashoggi's disappearance has prompted several big names to drop their support, including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, billionaire philanthropist and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong and British billionaire Richard Branson.
The New York Times and the Economist have also announced they would not attend, as have several prominent journalists.
Karen Attiah, who edits the Global Opinions section of the Washigton Post, the outlet Khashoggi worked for, urged a boycott of bin Salman's flagship conference.
"American investors, media professionals and government officials are going to Saudi Arabia for its Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh Oct 23," she wrote on Twitter. "After WaPo journalist Jamal #Khashoggi’s likely murder by KSA, these partners should WITHDRAW."
Khashoggi, a columnist for the newspaper, has not been heard from since Oct. 2 when he visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Speculation continues to grow that he was killed by Saudi authorities.
On the same day that he arrived at the consulate 15 Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on two planes and visited the consulate while Khashoggi was also inside, police sources said. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey.
Saudi authorities have yet to give a clear explanation of Khashoggi’s fate, while several countries — particularly Turkey, the U.S. and the UK — have expressed their desire that the matter should be elucidated as soon as possible.