Director Bryan Fogel Discusses “The Dissident”

The new documentary “The Dissident” traces Jamal Khashoggi’s life and career from insider to outcast — and the harassment and monitoring of other critics of the Saudi regime. Director Bryan Fogel is well versed in challenging oppressive governments. His last feature “Icarus” exposed the Russian doping scandal and won an Oscar in 2018. He joins the program to reflect on Khashoggi’s legacy.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I want to just take you back a little bit, because you talked about the Turkish authorities. They provided you with amazing interviews and firsthand evidence and film for the film. But, also, you talk about Omar Abdulaziz. So, we have a clip. And this is because he’s, I think, one of the dissidents that creates or is part of the circle around Khashoggi, who moved from being a monarchy’s insider to a reformer. We have got a tiny little clip about Abdulaziz. Then we will talk about it.


OMAR ABDULAZIZ, SAUDI ARABIAN DISSIDENT: Beginning of September, Jamal told me that he’s planning to come to Canada. He said: “I have few things to do in Turkey. Then I’m coming to meet you.” And we set the plan of the Bees together. That was our strategy.


AMANPOUR: So, it’s pretty mysterious, the Bees, our strategy. Explain what and Omar thought he was going to get from Khashoggi, who obviously never turned up because he was murdered in the interim.

FOGEL: Well, Omar is a young Saudi dissident living in self-exile in Montreal. And, basically, the Saudis came to rendition him back to Saudi Arabia, much like they were planning to do with Jamal. And he was working with Jamal on a program, basically, that they called the Bees, which essentially Saudi Arabia has taken control of Twitter in the country, and the vast majority of the country gets their news, and they call it essentially the parliament of Saudi Arabia, because there is no free speech, there is no democracy, there is no free press. And what Omar and Jamal was working on is basically how to take over the Twitter narrative, that, essentially, the flies, the Saudi Twitter trolls, I guess, as you would call them, have — had been successfully taking over Twitter with the pro-MBS narrative, but also suppressing freedom of speech within that country. And so the Bees was Jamal and Omar’s plan as to how they could take back the narrative on Twitter and bring freedom of expression and speech to the Saudi people.

About This Episode EXPAND

Hatice Cengiz; Bryan Fogel; Ronen Bergman; Patrice Cullors