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May 16, 2005

The Deadly Mistaken Periscope

As if American media critics needed any more fodder to press their case about substandard journalism practices, it came by way of an explosive report in Newsweek's Periscope section which touched off violence around the Muslim world in which more than a dozen died.

The Los Angeles Times reports today:

Newsweek magazine acknowledged Sunday that there were errors in a story reporting that U.S. interrogators had desecrated the Koran while attempting to extract intelligence from Muslim prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The report led to a series of violent anti-American protests and at least 14 deaths in Afghanistan.

In its issue set to hit U.S. newsstands today, Newsweek said its source for the story backed away from an assertion that investigators had concluded that military personnel had flushed a Koran down a toilet. The finding was supposedly included in an upcoming report. . . .

The admission is likely to focus further scrutiny on the American press, already suffering from revelations that reporters from major publications fabricated material, lifted quotations or used questionable material from unidentified sources.

A comment from Ibrahim Hooper of the Council of American-Islamic Relations underscores the particular danger of sloppy reporting when it comes to the Muslim community. "Unfortunately relations are so bad at this point that the perception will linger, no matter what the truth of the matter," he was quoted in the Times. "Many people won't believe it. They'll believe the magazine was pressured into doing a retraction."

Indeed, in the conspiracy theory-prone Muslim world, revelations debunking reported abuse of Muslims by non-believers don't generally get a fair shake. The Mohammed al-Dura case, in which evidence has emerged disproving France 2 Television's report that Israel killed the boy, is a case in point.

Mark Whitaker.bmp

Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker apologizes in today's issue: "We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."

Posted by TS at May 16, 2005 04:08 AM