Washington Post subtly admits slain Khashoggi columns were ‘shaped’ by Qatar

Several journalists around the world have already tweeted their astonishment to the Washington Post revelation.  (File/AFP)
Updated 23 December 2018

Washington Post subtly admits slain Khashoggi columns were ‘shaped’ by Qatar

  • Several journalists around the world have already tweeted their astonishment to the Washington Post revelation
  • The editors at the paper’s opinion section said they were unaware of the arrangements made by Khashoggi and the Qatar Foundation at the time of publishing

DUBAI: Slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s Washington Post columns were “shaped” by an executive at the Qatar Foundation, an entity funded directly by the Qatari regime which is at odds with Saudi Arabia, according to an article published by the Post on Saturday revealed.

“Text messages between Khashoggi and an executive at Qatar Foundation International show that the executive, Maggie Mitchell Salem, at times shaped the columns he submitted to The Washington Post, proposing topics, drafting material and prodding him to take a harder line against the Saudi government,” a statement in the article read.

Although the published article insinuates the Post’s opinion editor doesn’t envision a conflict of interest, such a matter is highly likely to go against the Post’s ethics and policies guideline that is published on its own website, it reads: 

“We do not accept payment – either honoraria or expenses – from governments, government-funded organizations, groups of government officials, political groups or organizations that take positions on controversial issues.”

“A reporter or editor also cannot accept payment from any person, company or organization that he or she covers. And we should avoid accepting money from individuals, companies, trade associations or organizations that lobby government or otherwise try to influence issues the newspaper covers…”

“…We avoid active involvement in any partisan causes — politics, community affairs, social action, demonstrations — that could compromise or seem to compromise our ability to report and edit fairly.”

Although nothing in the current revelations suggests that Khashoggi accepted payment from Qatar, the mere fact that his columns and articles were suggested, researched and translated by an affiliated with the Qatari government which since the mid nineties has been at odds with Saudi Arabia, many observers are likely to question their integrity and whether or not they reflected Jamal’s views or those of the Qataris. 

Several journalists around the world have already tweeted their astonishment to the Washington Post revelation. 

“This is unprofessional and hypocritical on behalf of the Washington Post. One only has to ask how would they have reacted if they found out that one of their pro-Trump columnists - if any - was secretly researching or getting his articles shaped by a Russian think tank. I say this while of course condemning what happened to Khashoggi and without any attempt to criticize him personally, I am just saying the Post is not deploying its own standards in this case,” said a Saudi journalist based in Riyadh on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the Khashoggi subject.

However, the editors at the paper’s opinion section said they were unaware of the arrangements made by Khashoggi and the Qatar Foundation at the time of publishing. 

“The proof of Jamal’s independence is in his journalism,” said the Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt in a statement, adding that “Jamal had every opportunity to curry favor and to make life more comfortable for himself, but he chose exile and — as anyone reading his work can see — could not be tempted or corrupted.”

Salem, who served as a special assistant to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, knew Khashoggi since 2002 and claims she only provided help to the Saudi writer in a ‘friends’ capacity only - saying that Khashoggi’s English language abilities were limited. 

“He and I talked about issues of the day as people who had come together, caring about the same part of the world,” Salem told the Washington Post. “Jamal was never an employee, never a consultant, never anything to [the foundation]. Never.”

Khashoggi, who placed himself in self-exile in the US, was last seen alive on October 2nd after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was filing documents for divorce from his wife in the Kingdom. It was revealed later that he was killed by a team of Saudi agents who according to the kingdom l’a investigations were ordered to negotiate his return but ended up killing him instead. 

Since then the Saudi government has charged a number of officials and security officers with the murder, they await trial while two senior officials - including the deputy head of intelligence - lost their jobs. 

Khashoggi’s killing is an awful crime which was condemned by journalists and newspapers worldwide, including this one where he served as deputy editor in chief.


Zuckerberg appears in Congress as Facebook faces scrutiny

Updated 23 October 2019

Zuckerberg appears in Congress as Facebook faces scrutiny

  • The company seems to spark public and official anger at every turn these days
  • Lawmakers from both parties and top regulators have criticized Facebook’s plan for the new currency

WASHINGTON: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is again appearing before Congress to face questions about his company’s massive market power, privacy lapses and tolerance of speech deemed false or hateful.
Zuckerberg has been summoned to testify at a hearing Wednesday by the House Financial Services Committee on Facebook’s plan to create a global digital currency, which has stirred opposition from lawmakers and regulators in the US and Europe. But the full range of policies and conduct of the social media giant with nearly 2.5 billion users will be under the public glare.
It’s the Facebook chief’s first testimony to Congress since April 2018.
The company seems to spark public and official anger at every turn these days, from its shift into messaging services that allow encrypted conversations to its alleged anticompetitive behavior to its refusal to take down phony political ads or doctored videos.
Lawmakers from both parties and top regulators — including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell — have criticized Facebook’s plan for the new currency, to be called Libra. They warn that it could be used for illicit activity such as money laundering or drug trafficking.
Rep. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who heads the Financial Services panel, this summer asked Facebook to not move forward with the currency and a digital wallet called Calibra that would be used with it. Waters has called Libra “a new Swiss-based financial system” that potentially is too big to fail and could require a taxpayer bailout.
Several high-profile companies that had signed on as partners in Facebook’s governing association for Libra have recently bailed, spelling a potentially rough road for the project. But many experts don’t believe it’s doomed.
Zuckerberg, in written testimony prepared for the hearing, aimed to reassure lawmakers that his company won’t try to evade financial regulators as it readies Libra.
Facebook “will not be a part of launching the Libra payments system anywhere in the world unless all US regulators approve it,” he said. That’s a stronger statement than Facebook official David Marcus made to Congress in July, when he said the company will not activate Libra until it has “fully addressed regulatory concerns and received appropriate approvals.” Marcus leads the Libra project.
Zuckerberg is striving to defend Libra and alleviate concerns that the currency could sidestep regulators. Analysts say Libra could avoid regulation and launch in countries where it’s not getting pushback, but this doesn’t appear to be Facebook’s intention.
Instead, Zuckerberg is pushing an optimistic vision of Libra and what it could mean for people around the world who don’t have access to bank accounts.
While some critics see the recent exodus of some Libra partners as evidence of the plan’s likely failure, US regulators appear to view it as enough of a threat that they are considering the possibility of the Fed launching its own competitor currency.
“At the Federal Reserve, we will continue to analyze the potential benefits and costs of central bank digital currencies, and look forward to learning from other central banks,” Lael Brainard, a member of the Fed’s board of governors, said in a speech last week.
There is concern among regulators that the massive reserve created with money used to buy the new currency could supplant the Fed and destabilize the financial system, and that consumers could be hurt by Libra losses.
Zuckerberg also played the China card in his remarks, urging regulators to act quickly “While we debate these issues, the rest of the world isn’t waiting. China is moving quickly to launch similar ideas in the coming months,” he said.
The Facebook CEO also has cited competition from China as a compelling reason against breaking up the company.
The Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee are all conducting investigations of Facebook and the other huge tech companies amid accusations of abuse of their market power to crush competition.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, has advocated breaking up Facebook and other tech behemoths. She recently ran a fake political ad on Facebook taking aim at Zuckerberg to protest the company’s policy of not fact-checking politicians’ speech or ads in the same way it enlists outside parties to fact-check news stories and other posts.
In a major speech last week at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg defended the company’s refusal to take down content from its platform it considers newsworthy “even if it goes against our standards.”
Facebook, Google and Twitter are trying to oversee Internet content while also avoiding infringing on First Amendment rights. The pendulum has swung recently toward restricting hateful speech that could spawn violence.