Daily Video

October 2, 2019

Frontline’s “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi



Directions: Read the summary, watch the video above (transcript here) and answer the discussion questions. You may also want to take a look at Extra’s previous Daily News Story on the legacy of Jamal Khashoggi.

Optional: You may wish to assign the full documentary or parts of it to your students. Encourage students to watch the film with a parent or family member and have them share what that experience was like the next time you meet as a class.


Summary: In a new Frontline documentary, “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (often referred to as MBS) addresses his role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Frontline’s Martin Smith, who tracked the crown prince down for the film, says Khashoggi’s murder opened a window to ask more questions about human rights and why journalists, academics, women human rights’ activists and business leaders been imprisoned by the government.

On Oct. 2, 2018,  Khashoggi, a permanent resident of the U.S. and Saudi Arabian journalist visited the Saudi consulate in Turkey, to pick up documents for his upcoming wedding. While inside, Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents, according to Turkish officials. Khashoggi had moved to the U.S. in 2017, and worked for the Washington Post. He was a well-known critic of bin Salman’s harsh treatment of journalists and Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen’s civil war.


Discussion questions:

1) Essential question: Why does the murder of Jamal Khashoggi continue to make front page news more than a year later?

2) Who was Jamal Khashoggi? What do you know about his murder?

3) Why do you think PBS Frontline made this documentary? How do long-form news documentaries differ from other forms of news media?

4) What does Martin Smith mean when he says of Saudi Arabia: “It’s a tremendously Kafkaesque, closed place, tightly controlled.” Why have journalists, academics, women human rights’ activists and business leaders been imprisoned by the government?

5) Saudi Arabia has been a major ally of the U.S. for some time. How did President Trump react to news of Khashoggi’s murder? How did Democrats and Republicans in Congress react?

Optional: Read “Trump puts Saudi arms sales above inquiry into Khashoggi killing” (June 2019). Why did the Trump administration decide to conduct the arms sale with Saudi Arabia? Do you agree with this decision? Why or why not?

Optional: Read the AP’s “A year after journalist Khashoggi’s killing, Saudi Arabia has provided few details.” Do you think it will be possible for bin Salman to achieve his desire to open up the country more if there is not more responsibility taken for Khashoggi’s murder?

6) Media literacy: PBS Frontline works with independent film companies to produce their documentaries. Take a look at Rain Media, the company that made Frontline’s “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” here and long-time filmmakers Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria.

Ask your students:

  • Looking at the list of films, what questions would you ask Smith and Gaviria about “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” and their documentary work?
  • What examples of investigative journalism do you see in their work?
  • What skills and traits do you think a journalist might build to do this type of investigative work?


Take a look at NewsHour Extra’s “Super Civics 2020” series for civics and 2020 election resources.


For monthly updates containing teacher resources on Election 2020, click here.

Sign up for short education highlights from the PBS NewsHour here.

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