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Photo by MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFP) (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP via Getty Images

Reporters without Borders (RSF), a global non-profit defending press freedoms, filed a criminal complaint against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and four other Saudi officials for the assassination of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi and for other crimes against journalists.

Why it matters: It's the latest organization to demand accountability from top Saudi officials following a U.S. intelligence report released last week that assessed the Saudi prince approved the 2018 operation to "capture or kill" Khashoggi, a prominent government critic.

Details: The lawsuit, filed Monday with the German Public Prosecutor General, also addresses 34 cases of journalists that have been jailed in Saudi Arabia.

  • The complaint alleges that those journalists, as well as Khashoggi, have been victims of several crimes against humanity, "including willful killing, torture, sexual violence and coercion, enforced disappearance, unlawful deprivation of physical liberty, and persecution."
  • "A crime against humanity is a widespread and systematic attack committed by individuals in full knowledge of this attack against a civilian population," RSF said in a statement.

Be smart: The group says it filed the complaint in Germany because German laws give them jurisdiction over core international crimes committed abroad, and because the courts have shown a willingness to tackle such issues.

  • "In Saudi Arabia, journalists, who are a civilian population according to international law, are victims of widespread and systematic attacks for political reasons in furtherance of a state policy aimed at punishing or silencing them. The five suspects identified in the complaint are fully responsible," RSF said.
  • German prosecutors will now decide whether to take up the case, but there's no guarantee that they will.

The big picture: The U.S. intelligence assessment has drawn scrutiny to the Biden administration, which said last week in light of the report's findings that it would not sanction the crown prince himself — worrying that doing so could threaten the country's strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

  • "President Biden is facing his first major test of a campaign promise and, it appears, he’s about to fail it," Washington Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan wrote Monday.
  • "It appears as though under the Biden administration, despots who offer momentarily strategic value to the United States might be given a 'one free murder' pass."
  • "The sad bottom line here is that when it comes to press-freedom issues, particularly internationally, there is less distance between Trump and Biden than we’d like to believe," Columbia Journalism Review columnist Jon Allsop wrote Monday.

The bottom line: The concern amongst press advocates is that in failing to take tougher action on the crown prince and his allies, the Biden administration is setting a global precedent that the U.S. will not come after other despots if they harm journalists abroad.

Go deeper

WaPo publisher: Biden set to give Saudi crown prince "one free murder" pass on Khashoggi

People hold posters picturing journalist Jamal Khashoggi and lightened candles during a gathering outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 25, 2018. Photo: YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images

Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan on Monday accused President Biden of giving Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a "'one free murder' pass" after U.S. intelligence confirmed that he personally approved the killing of Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Why it matters: Biden has faced criticisms that the U.S. response to the finding — which includes sanctions on entities implicated in the murder but not on Bin Salman directly — does not square with his campaign pledge to make the Saudi regime “pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.”

Tampa lawmaker pushes to make violence against journalists a hate crime

Andrea Chamblee (center), the widow of reporter John McNamara, at a vigil in Annapolis, Maryland, after he and four other journalists were killed in a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette on June 28, 2018. Photo: Calla Kessler/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

State Sen. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) has filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would extend the protection of the state’s hate crime statutes to reporters, William March reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Why it matters: 400 attacks on journalists were reported nationwide in 2020, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

GOP Rep. Clay Higgins says he has COVID for second time

Rep. Clay Higgins during a 2019 House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) Sunday evening that he and his wife have contracted COVID-19 for a second time and "this episode is far more challenging."

Driving the news: "Becca and I had COVID before, early on, in January 2020, before the world really knew what it was," he wrote in a Facebook post, confirming his son also has the coronavirus — which he described as a "biological attack weaponized virus."