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Washington Post: Text Messages Reveal Khashoggi’s 'Problematic' Ties with Qatar

Washington Post: Text Messages Reveal Khashoggi’s 'Problematic' Ties with Qatar

Monday, 24 December, 2018 - 07:30
The Washington Post building. (Getty Images)

The Washington Post revealed Saturday that late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had cultivated ties with Qatar that reached such a level that he began receiving guidance in how to shape his articles.

“Perhaps most problematic for Khashoggi were his connections to an organization funded by Qatar,” said the Post. “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.”

“Khashoggi also appears to have relied on a researcher and translator affiliated with the organization,” it revealed.

“Editors at the Post’s opinion section, which is separate from the newsroom, said they were unaware of these arrangements, or his effort to secure Saudi funding for a think tank,” said the article.

“A former US diplomat who had known Khashoggi since 2002, Salem said that any assistance she provided Khashoggi was from a friend who sought to help him succeed in the United States. She noted that Khashoggi’s English abilities were limited and said that the foundation did not pay Khashoggi nor seek to influence him on behalf of Qatar,” explained the Post.

It continued: “Khashoggi’s arrival in Washington came at an auspicious time for the Post, which was seeking writers for an online section called Global Opinions. One of its editors, Karen Attiah, reached out to Khashoggi to ask him to write on the forces roiling Saudi Arabia.

“Khashoggi was never a staff employee of the Post, and he was paid about $500 per piece for the 20 columns he wrote over the course of the year … As the months went on, he struggled with bouts of loneliness and stumbled into new relationships. He secretly married an Egyptian woman, Hanan El Atr, in a ceremony in suburban Virginia, though neither filled out paperwork to make it legal, and the relationship quickly fizzled.”

Moreover, the Post said that Khashoggi “cultivated friendships with people with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that he joined when he was a college student in the United States but subsequently backed away from.”

The organization is banned by several regimes in the Middle East.

“Khashoggi also appears to have accepted significant help with his columns. Salem, the executive at the Qatar foundation, reviewed his work in advance and in some instances appears to have proposed language, according to a voluminous collection of messages obtained by the Post.

“In early August, Salem prodded Khashoggi to write about Saudi Arabia’s alliances ‘from DC to Jerusalem to rising right wing parties across Europe...bringing an end to the liberal world order that challenges their abuses at home.’

“Khashoggi expressed misgivings about such a strident tone, then asked, ‘So do you have time to write it?’

“I’ll try,” she replied, although she went on to urge him to “try a draft” himself incorporating sentences that she had sent him by text. A column reflecting their discussion appeared in The Post on August 7. Khashoggi appears to have used some of Salem’s suggestions, though it largely tracks ideas that he expressed in their exchange over the encrypted app WhatsApp.

“As she reviewed a draft of the 7 column, she accused him of pulling punches. ‘You moved off topic and seem to excuse Riyadh...ITS HIGHLY PROBLEMATIC.’ The next day he wrote back that he had submitted the column,” said the Post.

“Other texts in the 200-page trove indicate that Salem’s organization paid a researcher who did work for Khashoggi. The foundation is an offshoot of a larger Qatar-based organization. Khashoggi also relied on a translator who worked at times for the Qatari embassy and the foundation.

“Khashoggi and Salem seemed to understand how his association with a Qatar-funded entity could be perceived, reminding one another to keep the arrangement ‘discreet’.”

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