Journalist Jamal Khashoggi criticised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's "authoritarian rule" shortly before his death, in an interview published following confirmation he died at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.
Speaking off the record to a Newsweek journalist working on a story about the Saudi leadership, he insisted he did not view himself as "an opposition" - he just wanted "a better Saudi Arabia".
"I'm not calling for the overthrow of the regime, because I know it's not possible and is too risky, and there is no one to overthrow the regime," Mr Khashoggi said.
"I'm just calling for reform of the regime."
He described Prince Mohammed as "an old-fashioned tribal leader" out of touch with Saudi's poor.
"Sometimes I feel that ... he wants to enjoy the fruits of First World modernity and Silicon Valley and cinemas and everything, but at the same time he wants also to rule like how his grandfather ruled Saudi Arabia," Mr Khashoggi told Newsweek.
"He still doesn't see the people. When he sees the people, that's when the actual reform will start."
Mr Khashoggi also criticised Prince Mohammed's lack of "proper advisers".
"He is moving toward a Saudi Arabia according to him, a Saudi Arabia according to Mohammed bin Salman only," said Mr Khashoggi.
He also described two of the prince's aides - sports chief Turki al-Sheikh and the since-dismissed media adviser Saud al-Qahtani - as "very thuggish".
"People fear them. You challenge them, you might end up in prison, and that has happened," he said.
Saudi Arabia has admitted that Mr Khashoggi had died inside the consulate, despite previous persistent claims by the Saudi authorities that the journalist had left the consulate alive.
The Saudi authorities have not yet said where his body is.
In the Newsweek interview, Mr Khashoggi said pushback from the international community was vital to keeping the Saudi regime in check.
"That is our only hope," he said.