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Leaked documents reveal Reuters helped overthrow Egyptian democracy

Reuters served as a channel for the UK Foreign Office to covertly fund an Egyptian outlet that clamored for the overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected leader, leaked documents show.
 
by Kit Klarenberg
 
Part 2 - British spies strike secret deal with Reuters
 
In the wake of Egypt’s revolution in February 2011, chaos reigned untrammeled. What path the country should take, whether and when free elections would be at last held, and if so who would be entrusted by the public with governing Cairo moving forward, was far from clear.

Large-scale protests against the interim military administration following Mubarak’s departure were an almost daily occurrence, as were violent and sometimes fatal clashes between demonstrators and security forces. Along the way, protesters ransacked and occasionally occupied the offices of local police forces and intelligence services, attacked foreign embassies, and torched government buildings.

Against this tumultuous backdrop, Egypt prepared for its first free parliamentary vote in October 2011. Though many citizens welcomed the elections, officials across the West openly angsted about the popular Muslim Brotherhood emerging victorious and pursuing an independent path. Such fears were particularly pronounced in Britain, Cairo’s former imperial master, and its largest investor today.

As if on cue, Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), the “charitable” arm of the Thomson Reuters global news conglomerate, established Aswat Masriya, an ostensibly independent media outlet, to cover Egyptian affairs. Unbeknownst to the Egyptian public, the effort was wholly funded by the British Foreign Office. By the time Aswat Masriya closed, a staggering £2 million had been pumped into the initiative by London.

[Aswat Masriya] became Egypt’s leading independent local media organisation until its closure…Its content was offered for free syndication across the region,” a leaked TRF document boasts. “In 2016, [it] became one of the top 500 most visited websites in Egypt.

Reuters’ Cairo offices “provided payroll, human resources, and security support” to Aswat Masriya, and the outlet was based there for its duration. A since-deleted online profile states 300 Egyptians were trained via the project, a veritable army of journalists generating over 300 stories each and every week in English and Arabic. These were then recycled by over 50 media outlets worldwide, including Reuters.

London’s rationale for kickstarting Aswat Masriya was clear. Establishing a local news platform granted the Foreign Office an unparalleled degree of on-the-ground narrative control as events unfolded in Egypt, both domestically and internationally. British intelligence has established a long record of funding news outlets overseas for this precise purpose – including Reuters.

During the late 1960s, London financed the creation of Reuters’ Middle East service. The outfit provided slanted stories about local and world events for reuse by journalists elsewhere, in English and Arabic – in the precise manner of Aswat Masriya.

There is reason to believe Reuters are receptive to the idea they would have to give something in return…What [British intelligence] might secure, in effect, is the chance to influence in some measure the whole Reuters output,” a declassified Foreign Office file states. “There is an opportunity here to evolve a relationship [with] Reuters…[British] interests should be well served by the new arrangement.

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