Saudis unhappy with the Washington Post’s coverage of the killing of its journalist Jamal Khashoggi are taking aim at Jeff Bezos’ business interests in the Middle East.
Thousands of social media users in Saudi Arabia backed calls for a boycott of Amazon (AMZN) and its regional subsidiary on Monday. Bezos owns the Washington Post and is still by far the biggest shareholder in Amazon.
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month. Saudi officials first denied all knowledge of his fate before admitting later that his killing was premeditated murder.
The Post has been demanding information about Khashoggi’s death and justice for his killers. It described Saudi Arabia’s version of events as a “coverup” last month.
On Friday, the Post published an op-ed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan where he wrote: “The order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”
Saudis have used Twitter and local media outlets to denounce what they described as a “media campaign” aimed at tarnishing Saudi Arabia’s image and undermining efforts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernize the country.
A Saudi journalist, Bandar Otyf, tweeted to his 105,000 followers that the Post “consistently publishes articles that are defaming.”
“Let’s defend our nation … boycott Amazon to send a message to its owner so he is aware of the scale of the damage,” Otyf added.
Amazon doesn’t have a big presence in the Middle East but the company last year bought Souq.com, the region’s leading e-commerce platform based in Dubai, to extend its reach.
“Boycott Amazon and Souq.com” was one of the top trending hashtags in Saudi Arabia on Monday. By 4:30 pm in Riyadh (8:30 am ET), it had been mentioned in over 8,000 tweets.
“It’s not acceptable, the [Amazon] owner is the same owner of the paper that attacks our nation and its leaders,” said another Twitter user.
Bezos has so far not spoken out about the killing, but the Post’s publisher Fred Ryan has kept up the pressure on the Saudi authorities.
Ryan said on Thursday Khashoggi was “lured into a death trap.” He also announced an initiative — the Press Freedom Partnership — to “increase awareness of the importance of an independent press.”
One Twitter user said he was not going to join the boycott.