Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Who duped the Independent? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I don’t know how many times newspapers like Britain’s The Independent have been subjected to painful blows, like the legal case that was recently won by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz. This time the prominent journalist Robert Fisk fell into the trap, and he himself was the one who mistakenly described Bahrain as being “occupied by invading Saudi forces,” despite his large collection of international journalism awards. However the big question here is: how was the newspaper deceived…and who was responsible for this deception?

There is no doubt that the source that this sober-minded newspaper relied on in its report, which it believed was a “solid” source and which was later revealed to be false, raises a number of question marks. Of course the newspaper did not hesitate to state in its apology that it had utilized this source “in good faith”, which it claimed as evidence of Saudi forces suppressing its own citizens. This was despite the fact that the internet was full of hundreds of other similarly false claims in this regard.

Those who follow the reports being issued by foreign newspapers will notice two fundamental dilemmas that Western journalists must face when considering the state of affairs in our Arab region. The first is that these journalists are writing ultra-sensitive field reports thousands of kilometres away from where the actual events are taking place on the ground. The second dilemma is their reliance on those who call themselves “activists” as a source of information, for such people are not known for taking part in any tangible social or [human] rights’ work that would grant them any such status, or allow them to possess the information that the journalists are looking for. On this basis Robert Fisk – and others – were deceived into believing that they had managed to get a serious scoop, only to realize that they had made a mistake for which their media would not soon be forgiven.

As for the final confirmation [of a story] that is sought to no avail, and I am referring to the claims that the absence of information is what led to the situation reaching this stage today, then we can only say: Glory be to God! This is a great lie! Would we write lies and deceptions [in an article] simply because one party or another refused to respond to a journalist’s demands [for information]? Yes, official parties must open their doors to the media and not turn them away without answers; but connecting one issue with the other returns us to square one in terms of identifying the features of professional journalism that seemed to have been absent with regards to this prominent British newspaper’s report.

Last week I wrote an article entitled “The Saudi School of Rascals” [02/08/2011] in reference to a group of people who falsely consider themselves to be political activists, when in reality all that they do is appear on social networking websites – particularly Facebook and Twitter – throwing accusations and insults at public figures. It is these figures who are responsible for deceiving Robert Fisk and providing him with the dubious information that he bases many of his articles on our region on. These figures communicate with the international media by issuing false reports and documents online. If we look at the reports and articles published by international news agencies we will see that dozens of so-called “activists” are quoted, however we do not know how they acquired this status of [political] activism.

Yes, perhaps some of them have the tools that allow them to monitor the pulse of the street; however the majority have only become more versed in deceit and deception, even at the expense of their own nations and the truth.