Gerard Butler cancels press tour visit to Saudi Arabia over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Hanna Flint
Contributor
Gerard Butler cancels Saudi Arabia trip

Gerard Butler has decided not to visit Saudi Arabia as part of his new film’s press tour because of the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Washington Post columnist was reported missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Instabul last week, with subsequent claims by Turkish officials that he was allegedly murdered by the Saudi government onsite for his frequent criticism of its regime.

Butler, who is currently promoting Hunter Killer, told CNN that it was not the time to visit the country.

“The timing couldn’t have been worse,” he said. “We heard about Khashoggi going missing the day before we were supposed to leave, two days before, but the next day was when we had to go and it just didn’t feel like a smart move.

“It felt very insensitive and it’s something that we shouldn’t really be getting involved with, so we thought we’re going to stay away from that.”

Saudi Arabia recently lifted a 35-year ban on public cinemas with the building of new cinema facilities in the capital of Riyadh, where Butler was meant to visit.

Cinemas have been banned since 1982, after clerics pressured the government into doing so in order to discourage the mixing of men and women and Western influence.

The new cinema opened in April and premiered Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been using moves like this, as well as allowing women to drive, in order to present the country as more progressive but there is still much widespread criticism over its numerous human rights violations.

Like Butler, several companies and media outlets have withdrawn from attending a high-profile investment summit in Riyadh over the Saudi government’s alleged involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

The New York Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg, CNN and CNBC have all cancelled as media sponsors while Sir Richard Branson has suspended Virgin’s ties with Saudi, as have Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Now Hollywood is under pressure to distance itself from the Crown Prince after many in Tinseltown schmoozed him on a visit to Los Angeles back in April.

Disney CEO Bob Iger to Rupert Murdoch, Universal film chairman Jeff Shell, Fox TV executive Peter Rice and film studio chief Stacey Snider, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson all met the Crown Prince during his three-day visit.

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