Week 18 — Profit Or Justice For Jamal Khashoggi?

Adriel Fong
4 min readJan 18, 2021

The story of Jamal Khashoggi lives on.

Khashoggi’s story isn’t one of victory or happy ever after. For those who aren’t familiar with his story, let me give you a quick rundown.

On October 2nd 2018, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents that would allow him to officially marry his fiancee Hatice Cengiz.

CCTV footage saw him enter the consulate. He never came out, instead out came a body double disguised as Khashoggi.

He had been brutally assassinated by agents sent by the kingdom to silence him. He was embalmed alive and dismembered by Saudi agents, Khashoggi’s body was then tossed into an oven. The details of his death are brutal and inhumane.

In the latest film by award-winning filmmaker and director Bryan Fogel, the dissident follows the deep and dark story behind the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the association with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of the Saudi kingdom.

Bryan Fogel was responsible for the release of his award-winning documentary Icarus, which centres around Russia’s Olympic doping scandal. The film created such profound impact that the Olympic investigating commission for sports cited the film as one of the reasons to ban Russia from the upcoming games.

Smuggling urine samples back to Russia

Before Icarus, Netflix had never won any other major film awards. After Icarus, Netflix had began to pull in more and more awards and credibility from successful filmmakers. So, when Bryan approached Netflix to buy the distribution rights to his new documentary “The Dissident”, one would logically assume that Netflix would not hesitate to aid him with his new and explosive film.

However, Netflix turned down his offer. Why? Netflix probably didn’t want to get tangled with such politically charged issues and risk the financial wrath of the kingdom. In 2019, Netflix removed one of Hassan Manaj’s episode on “The Patriot’s Act” at the request of the kingdom. They cited the reason behind this cancellation as not being a truth to power company but rather an entertainment company.

I found it quite funny because Icarus still remains one of the highly recommended films on my Netflix homepage and Icarus ended up having huge impact on world wide sporting and global politics.

Yes, granted that 2017 Netflix is a totally different beast than the Netflix we now know today.

As I was listening to Bryan Fogel speak about this on the Joe Rogan Experience, he wasn’t mad at Netflix or at the other distribution channels for their unwillingness to put up his film for mass consumption. Instead, he was disappointed at the state of how corporate or financial interests far outweighed the importance of the film, which centred around justice for Khashoggi’s family and fiancé.

As I listened to his point of view and his heart for the victims, I felt torn.

We had just welcomed Pamela and Benjamin, 2 of our brand new VB18 survivors and I told them that although social responsibility is great to have in an organisational culture standpoint, the impact of your social work would be limited if you aren’t able to make enough profit to support those endeavours.

Here I was saying profit always comes first, but Bryan’s story forces a double-take on my beliefs.

As a business owner, what would you do? How would you respond to a request like this? Because this decision is not to be taken lightly. Publicly accepting this film could mean very real repercussions for you, your family and your staff.

Consequently, business owners have a duty to ensure the safety of their employees because employees have entrusted their employment into your hands. That is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly at all.

The decision to anger another country could mean the difference between putting your staff’s safety in danger and potentially losing millions of dollars worth of opportunities or taking your company forward monetarily and securing stability for your business.

But at what cost? Would it eat away at your inner-man? The heart and soul of what it means to be human, your conscience and the integrity of your empathy tearing up inside of you.

This week has been spent grappling with the morality behind this question from the perspective of a business owner and I understand that these kinds of decisions are those that you’ll never get 100% correct. There isn’t a fixed answer and you’re never going to make everyone happy.

Our mentor Edward told us, there are some decisions you have to make that you have to take your time and carefully consider and there are some that you need to just choose a path quickly and make adjustments on the fly.

As entrepreneurs, we have to decipher between the 2.

Being put into the position as custodians of Jamal Khashoggi’s story is definitely the former.

What do you think? Connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know what you think!


Till next week!