Public prosecutor makes Wikileaks blunder

Local media outlets published claims on Saturday that the public prosecutor is investigating complaints accusing a number of prominent activists of illegally receiving funds from the US, citing a Wikileaks cable. On Sunday, meanwhile, the Middle East News Agency, a state-run outlet, denied news of any investigation. 

In the initial news, no reference was made to the cable in question. On researching the published cables, Mada Masr could not identify one that has content concerning receipt of funds by the cited activists. One cable that included the names of some activists involved in the alleged complaints was released in November 2011 and referred to a meeting at the US Embassy with “political oppositionists, democracy and human rights activists, and journalists from independent and opposition newspapers.

Newspapers reporting the prosecution’s investigation, such as the state-run Al-Ahram, however, referred to a report they received from an unknown “sovereign source,” claiming that activists met secretly with the US ambassador back in 2007 and 2008, and received illegal funds from the US. 

The list of activist names in the news reports included renowned bloggers Alaa Abdel Fattah, Wael Abbas, Nawara Negm, and Asmaa Mahfouz, April 6 Movement activists Ahmed Maher and Esraa Abdel Fattah, the administrator of the We are all Khaled Said Facebook group Wael Ghonim, and Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Gehad al-Haddad. It also includes prominent politicians such as Amr Hamzawy, Amr Shobaki, Gamila Ismail, and Ayman Nour, as well as human rights advocate Hafez Abo Saeda. 

Many of the activists in question denounced the allegations on Facebook and Twitter. Hamzawy tweeted a denial of the foreign funding allegations, adding that the “campaign of fabrication and distortion must immediately stop.”

Meanwhile, privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper published a report Sunday titled “A sovereign body fishes for a scandal, and local newspapers fall into the trap.” The newspaper said the complaints allegedly being handled by the prosecution are based on a report published last year that mistranslated a Wikileaks cable. Al-Watan said it accordingly chose not to publish a report it received from a “sovereign body” claiming that activists received foreign funding. 

“We believe respectable newspapers should not be a tool in the hands of bodies targeting certain figures,” it said. 

Activists responded by claiming that either Al-Watan is denouncing other newspapers to increase its sales or that the different stories reflect a conflict within state entities leaking the news. 

On Twitter, Abdel Fattah wrote that Al-Watan’s “bizarre stance” of siding with the activists could be because state security is not keen on “fighting these battles with us,” as opposed to the military, which he and others believe to be behind the fake report and keen to tarnish the activists’ reputations.

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