Wednesday, February 25, 2009

AP's Latest Deceptions on Iran

"When we make a correction in the current cycle, we point out the error and its fix in the editor's note. . . . A corrective corrects a mistake from a previous cycle. The AP asks papers or broadcasters that used the erroneous information to use the corrective, too. For corrections on live, online stories, we overwrite the previous version. We send separate corrective stories online as warranted."
The Associated Press' "Statement of News Values and Principles" under subhead "Corrections/Correctives" (ap.org/newsvalues/index.html)

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In the span of a few hours on February 25th, The Associated Press released two versions of the same news report: "Iran tests its first nuclear power plant" in the morning, and "Iranians in test run of first nuclear power plant" in the early afternoon. Both reports carried the byline "Nasser Karimi" and both carried this editor's note: "Associated Press Writer Matti Friedman in Jerusalem, George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report." In other words, the afternoon report was a revised version — or rather, what AP refers to as a "corrective" — of the morning report.

And what were the errors in the first release that had to be corrected in the second? Well, that is not clear because, in apparent violation of their own journalistic principles, the AP editor didn't thus specify in the editor's note. But while we may never be able to prove exactly what the editor had in mind when releasing the "corrective" report, any shrewd reader, upon reading the reports concurrently, will conclude that what compelled the editor to rewrite the original was not necessarily a technical error but a political one.

Take for example this excerpt, which is found in the penultimate paragraph of the morning release yet omitted from the afternoon version:

Russia says there is no evidence that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons . . .

What on earth drove the AP editor to strike that paragraph from the "corrective" report? (If it was a factual error, it would show up in the editor's note.) We might never know for sure, but in the very least, AP is egregiously breaking its own journalistic "values and principles." At worst, AP is lying for the U.S. and Israeli governments.

Indeed, AP actually gives Israeli and U.S. officials plenty of space to spew unsubstantiated claims in both the morning and afternoon version. For example, from the morning report:

In Israel, which has been one of the most vocal nations accusing Iran of seeking a bomb, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the tests at Bushehr "should be understood as very bad news for the whole of the international community."

"The real issue here is the general Iranian program designed to obtain nuclear weapons, the Bushehr reactor is just one component of that program," he said. He called for "immediate and very determined steps in order to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power." [paragraphs 15 & 16]

The afternoon report adds:

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that "time is slipping through our fingers" in preventing Iran from developing a weapon. [paragraph 11]

If AP had any journalistic "values and principles" whatsoever, the editor would have immediately inserted refutations to those spurious claims. Instead, readers of the morning version had to read through 10 more paragraphs of increasingly boring filler material to get to the Russian claim of Iranian non-proliferation, while readers of the updated version saw ZERO third-party refutations to the bogus Israeli and U.S. accusations.

Let's recap.

— Between both versions of the report, there appear 13 allusions to (implications and accusations of) Iranian nuclear-weapon proliferation, to only four Iranian denials.

— The Russian claim of Iranian non-proliferation is found in the penultimate paragraph of the morning version of the report, but is nowhere to be found in the afternoon revision, while the more-numerous Israeli and U.S. claims of Iranian proliferation are found in both reports, and actually increase in number from the first to the second!

— And as is always the case in AP "coverage" of the Iranian nuclear program, statements confirming Iranian non-proliferation, coming from the foremost authoritative party of all, are OMITTED. (According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran is neither producing nuclear weapons nor possessive of the wherewithal to do so.)

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what The Associated Press calls a "corrective." The error of the original report, you see, was that AP included a non-Iranian defense of the Iranian right to peacefully produce the type of energy Iran desires according to Iran's needs. (No wonder there was no editor's note in the revised version! How would an honest explanation have played out to the majority of AP readers who will otherwise never see through the propaganda?)

Is that the kind of journalism you should expect from "the world's largest and most trusted source of independent news and information"?

Or is it the work of a Propaganda Ministry hell-bent on delivering regional — global — domination to its imperial masters?

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