Mohamed Fahmy, a former Al-Jazeera English journalist who was released from jail in Egypt in 2015, has been recently appointed CEO of The Investigative Journal (IJ), a newly launched online investigative news platform.
Since its initial inception in February, the Investigative Journal has published reports by prominent journalists from around the world, including three-time New York Times bestselling author and journalist, Richard Miniter, and Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt. Both, through thousands of documented sources, were able expose the roles of the Qatari and Turkish regimes in supporting terrorist movements in Syria.
In December 2013, Canadian-Egyptian Fahmy and two Al Jazeera English colleagues ,Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, were arrested by the Egyptian authorities.
The trio were accused of conspiring with a terrorist group and fabricating news to portray Egypt in a state of civil war. They were also accused of filming events in Cairo without prior approval.
On 23 June 2014, Fahmy was found guilty by a Cairo criminal court and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Fahmy abrogated his Egyptian citizenship in February 2015 to benefit from a presidential executive order allowing the deportation of foreign prisoners. His colleague Peter Greste was deported to Australia.
In September 2015 and ahead of a visit to New York, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi pardoned Fahmy. El-Sisi also restored Fahmy's Egyptian citizenship in June 2016.
Shortly after his release, Fahmy said that he was suing Al-Jazeera English for $100 million in damages related to the case.
Fahmy was interviewed by Gamal Essam El-Din about his new job, his view of the Western media's coverage of events in the Middle East and his current judicial dispute with Al-Jazeera channel.
Fahmy, 45, has worked extensively in the Middle East and North Africa, for CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera.
He authored a book about his imprisonment in Egypt titled The Marriot Cell: An Epic Journey from Cairo's Scorpion Prison to Freedom.
Q: How was The Investigative Journal able to get the data and information about Turkey's role in supporting Daesh and other terrorist groups and helping them infiltrate Syria and create chaos there?
Abdullah Bozkurt who wrote the two investigations is a prominent Turkish journalist who is now living in exile in Sweden. Bozkurt wrote this investigation based on unpublished documents he acquired from a source in the courts in Turkey including transcripts of wiretaps of mobile phone calls between Turkish top brass in the security apparatus and ISIS fighters and smugglers who facilitated the entrance of those terrorists into Turkey. Bozkurt also acquired photos taken by traffic cameras in Turkey of the intercepted trucks transporting the weapons into Syria. The interviews he conducted were with people who were directly involved in the operations and who spoke in anonymity and some on the record leave no doubt that Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership have not only empowered ISIS and Al Qaeda, funded them, and supplied them with weapons, but they also bought millions of dollars worth of stolen oil from those terrorists in the past five years which aided these groups in funding their operations that led to the death of thousands of innocent people—journalist, aid workers, tourists in Europe, and women and children inside and outside of Syria—a real crime that Erdogan must be tried for.
Q: How do you see Qatar's role in fueling the war in Syria by supporting terrorist groups?
It is not new information that Qatar has been funding terrorist groups in Syria for years, especially Al Nusra Front, the former affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria. However, in Abdallah Bozkurt’s report, he spoke to a source who worked in the airport and witnessed the transport of the weapons to Syria. The source confirmed that he saw many cargo planes transporting the weapons who flew into Turkish airport and had the Qatari government emblems emblazed on the airplanes. This is yet more evidence against a nation that has chosen to fund militant groups who kill innocent people and destroy the sovereignty of nations to force their political and religious beliefs on us using violence—the classic definition of terrorism.
How do you assess the coverage of the Western media which has not covered many of these issues regarding Turkey and Qatar financing and supporting such terrorist groups?
It a real shame that the mainstream media has not done in-depth coverage of Qatar and Turkey’s blatant support to these terrorist groups. The information is out there and it’s not rocket science if you want to compile it all into one report to inform the public of such dangers. That is the main reason why The Investigative Journal was established by British publisher and philanthropist Yousri Ishaq, which is to focus on topics that are marginalized by the mainstream media like CNN, BBC, and France 24 for example. Some of these stations receive hundreds of millions of dollars through commercials and advertisements paid for by the Qatari government which, for example, is currently running back to back TV commercials on CNN. I believe that some of these stations do not shy away from such topics so as not to lose these sponsorships of TV programs by certain governments and to keep the commercials coming. It’s not matter set in stone. It is almost like an unspoken decision by the executives and owners of the channels. At The Investigative Journal our goal is to remain neutral, balanced, and produce in-depth investigations written by some of the best journalists in the business, and who cover stories from every corner of the world. We make sure our sources are spot on and we have a lawyer or a fact-check that reads the investigations before they go live.
How do you see the role of the Doha-based Aljazeera in disseminating the message of terrorist groups?
I can write a book about this, and I actually gave many examples such as The Marriott Cell, the book I co-wrote with award-winning author Carol Shaben, who is also on the board of TIJ. Parts of the book explain how Al Jazeera disseminated the messages and ideas of terrorist groups and cooperated with them through illegal and unethical ways of newsgathering. People should not judge Al Jazeera just from what they see on the screen. Al Jazeera has destroyed the noble meaning of citizen journalism by supplying members of groups designated as terrorists with filming equipment, money in return for footage and finances in general so that these groups can facilitate for them access into conflict zones and areas where it’s hard to report from. Sure, we journalists all want to be the first to report the story and get exclusives, but not by systematically jeopardizing the ideals of journalism and breaching the law and ethics—it is unacceptable. Unfortunately, Al Jazeera’s top management took many decisions to work with terrorist groups without even informing reporters, a matter which left them imprisoned, and at times physically targeted by the security apparatus in many countries. By continuing to engross themselves in such illegal actions to acquire access and news, Al-Jazeera has become part of the conflict not the neutral prophet who is supposedly out there to report on it. Al Jazeera called for democratic changes during the “Arab Spring” and spent millions of dollars to support the views of the foreign ministry of Qatar calling for democratic change all over the Arabic, which is by the way not the role of journalist in the first place—but they failed to produce content calling for democracy inside Qatar—a nation that has no parliament, labor unions, press unions and zero press freedom—a nation that had previously sentenced Qatari poet Mohamed Al Ajami to life in prison for a poem, stripped several Qatari journalists of their citizenship for writing critical opinion pieces on the government’s performance, stripped 6000 tribesman of their citizenship, and fabricated a case against their iconic justice minister Dr. Najib Al Nuaimi just because he spoke critically of the policies of the current regime and their support of groups designated as terrorist ones like the Muslim Brotherhood designated.
What kind of topics to do you focus on at The Investigative Journal?
If you look at our fearless board of advisors, you will see that coincidentally six of our team members have either been jailed, abducted by terrorist groups in Syria or targeted by governments which want to silence the truth. Our motto is “Truth in Journalism” and that is what we are really about. We cover investigations that revolve around the topics of press freedom, terrorism, environment, health, corruption, human rights, governance, and migration among others. Our roving reporters include champions like Lindsey Snell, an American award-winning journalist who was not deterred by Al Nusra Front kidnapping her in Syria or Erdogan chasing her unlawfully through the Interpol and has just returned from an embed with the Nigerian army as she reported for TIJ on Boko Haram and other sensitive issues on the ground. Intrepid Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui who is living in exile in Paris survived an abduction and possible assassination attempt by the Pakistani military and he still continues to write hard-hitting articles for TIJ on Pakistani issues and other hot topics. Richard Minitir, who is a three times New York Times best-selling author, is also a regular contributor to TIJ and has written an eye-opening investigation about Qatar hacking and targeting the email addresses of more than 1400 influential people worldwide including diplomats, journalists, academics, activists, soccer players, and Bollywood actors. I am particularly excited about a report written by Penny Hosie coming soon to TIJ about air pollution and the effect it has on the public’s health.
Do you produce video content on The Investigative Journal?
We sure do. Our video journalists have interviewed the authors of the investigations and experts around the topics which are edited and posted on the website and social media as an attachment to the investigations—it’s mainly for the audience that are too busy to read and could use a quick video fix to feed their hunger for true journalism. In July, we will begin filming in New York a studio based talk-show that will host experts on the topics we investigate to further our mission and ensure that TIJ audience receive a variety of information from different sources globally. The web-based show will run on the TIJ TV slot on the website, and on social media and You Tube. I am proud of the team producing it and in particular of the Tal Heinrich, the host of the show who has blown me away with her perfection of English, Hebrew, Arabic, and French languages. We intend to discuss topics that range from the unprecedented exodus of refugees in Venezuela, to the talk of designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group in the US and matters that revolve around women’s rights, air pollution, press freedom—a true manifestation of the mandate of The Investigative Journal.
What is the purpose of the whistle-blowing portal on the site?
We welcome and respect whistle blowers who approach us with a good cause and intention. The Investigative Journal welcomes those who send us documents, videos, or information to expose tyranny, corruption, and anything that could be the start of an eye-opening investigation. TIJ protects its sources at all times and we indeed have begun receiving information through the website by honest citizens who are concerned about wrongdoings.
What is the next big thing for The Investigative Journal?
I work from the small TIJ bureau in Vancouver Canada where I live and we have affiliates in Washington DC and of course the head office is in London. We are all excited about our official launch which will take place in London on July 9th and the line-up of speakers who will join me, the staff, and a guest list of prominent officials and journalists are just marvelous. Award-winning journalist Maria Ressa from the Philippines will be joining us as a keynote speaker and Tamara Pearl, the sister of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl will honor us with her words of wisdom as she continues to carry the legend of her dear brother, a man who defined everything that makes investigative journalism a necessity in our everyday lives to counter the lies thrown at us even from the leaders and heads of states who are supposed to be role models. The event will be live-streamed on www.investigtivejournal.org
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 June, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Investigating terrorism funded by Qatar and Turkey