Khashoggi columns: Washington Post Mideast editor calls it ‘journalistic no-no’

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After The Washington Post acknowledged that pieces they published by Jamal Khashoggi were in fact written or shaped by an executive at the Qatar Foundation International, further questions have now been raised whether journalistic ethics were followed by its editors and if the final opinion piece was actually written by the late Saudi journalist at all.

The revelation sparked controversy surrounding the ethics of the profession in the West and also shocked the East in terms of the absence of context in the coverage of the writer’s murder. It also sparked a debate regarding Qatar’s infiltration of western media and exploitation of the latter to hurt its neighbors and empower the Muslim Brotherhood.

Maggie Mitchell Salem, the executive at the Qatar Foundation International, has been widely criticized as her justifications did not convince The Washington Post editors. Some have also raised questions as to who actually wrote the final opinion piece, which The Washington Post published under Khashoggi’s name.

The daily itself had said that it did not directly receive the piece from Khashoggi himself while he was still alive, and that it received it after losing contact with him, and it’s likely that he was already killed by then.

The daily also said it was not Jamal who sent the piece, adding that a “researcher and translator,” whom the Qatar Foundation had assigned to assist him, did.

Mohammed al-Yahya, a Saudi columnist who was a close friend of Khashoggi, raised this question on Sunday. “Who is this researcher/assistant/translator? And why isn’t the media looking at his profile? Is it the same person that’s in all of these accounts? Obviously it seems that it is.. so many questions to be asked by media people that aren’t doing their jobs,” al-Yahya tweeted.

What’s intriguing is that the topic, which was about freedom of expression and the press in the Arab world, only praised Qatar and attacked its neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia.

As The Washington Post announced the truth behind these articles, analysts said they have doubts regarding the identity of the writer of the op-ed and they are almost certain that it was a Qatari political publication that aims to serve the Muslim Brotherhood, and distort the Kingdom’s image.

A media expert also cast doubt on the strange mention in the article, which called for launching an inciting radio station or television channel that is similar to Radio Free Europe, which the US launched after WWII to attack the Soviet Union.

He added that it’s unlikely that Khashoggi made such a request noting that including it in the article is further evidence that he did not write the piece.

The Washington Post was also questioned by one its own editors, Liz Sly, the paper’s Beirut bureau chief, covering Lebanon, Syria and the wider Middle East region.

“Worryingly, an executive for the Qatar Foundation helped Jamal Khashoggi write some of his columns and the Washington Post didn't know. This and other new details in this great piece by Souad Mekhennet and Greg Miller,” she tweeted.

Mitchell Salem then responded to Sly’s tweet in an attempt to defend herself to which The Washington Post bureau chief responded as following: “I realize this was probably just an act of friendship, but it’s a journalistic no-no. All the people who contributed to articles should be fully identified. And this is why we are not allowed to share our articles before they are published”.

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