Media companies are pulling out of a high-profile business conference in Saudi Arabia as questions mount about the kingdom’s role in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Future Investment Initiative, also known as “Davos in the desert,” is hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and is part of his Vision 2030 plan to break the country’s dependence on oil.
The conference is scheduled to take place between October 23 and October 25 in Riyadh. Major political and business figures have been invited to speak and several big companies, including Siemens (SIEGY), MasterCard (MA) and Deloitte are listed as “strategic partners” for the event on its website.
But media partners for the conference have come under particular scrutiny, since Khashoggi is a prominent Saudi journalist, contributor to the Washington Post and critic of the Saudi regime.
The New York Times has pulled its partnership, telling CNN Business in a statement that the newspaper is “no longer a media sponsor.”
“In light of the current situation related to the disappearance of the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey, we are no longer comfortable being associated with the event,” a Times spokesperson said.
On Friday, CNN also canceled its partnership, and said its anchors and reporters would no longer moderate panels.
“CNN has withdrawn its participation in the Saudi Future Investment Initiative Conference,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Khashoggi has been missing for more than a week after going to the Saudi consulate general in Istanbul to obtain wedding papers. Turkish officials privately believe he was killed at the consulate, an allegation denied by Saudi Arabia.
The United States has intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him, according to a US official familiar with the intelligence.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, a columnist for the New York Times and anchor for CNBC, tweeted Thursday that he was “terribly distressed” by the disappearance of Khashoggi and would no longer participate. He had been due to moderate three sessions.
Viacom (VIAB) CEO Bob Bakish, who was also scheduled to speak at the conference, will not attend, a company spokesperson said.