US announces visa ban on individuals who harm journalists, activists

Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks out to speak during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Feb 26, 2021. REUTERS
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced the State Department’s “Khashoggi Ban,” a visa restriction policy on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities.

The activities include those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work, or who engage in such activities with respect to the families or other close associates of such persons.

“Family members of such individuals also may be subject to visa restrictions under this policy, where appropriate,” Blinken said in a statement.

To start with, the United States banned 76 people from Saudi Arabia on Friday, saying it will not tolerate individuals who threaten or assault activists, dissidents and journalists on behalf of foreign governments.

Blinken’s announcement of the new visa restriction policy came soon after the release of a US intelligence report tying the Saudi government to the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Individuals should be able to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without fear of government retribution, retaliation, punishment, or harm. Jamal Khashoggi paid with his life to express his beliefs.”

Blinken also have directed that the State Department fully report on any such extraterritorial activities by any government in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. 

“The United States will continue to shine a light on any government that targets individuals, either domestically or extraterritorially, merely for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said.