Media Blog

Reuters Runs False Report of Afghan Rescue Operation, says AP

The Reuters news agency issued a report at 7:42 a.m. EDT Wednesday that an operation aimed at rescuing the South Korean hostages held by the Taliban in Afghanistan was under way.

A full-length story on the rescue was put out by Reuters at 7:51 a.m. Both stories quoted Khowja Seddiqi, a district chief in the area, as the source.
At 9:31 a.m., Reuters sent notice that “the official quoted in the story did not make the comment reported.”
It takes the Associated Press (whose own foreign coverage is far from exemplary) to take a critical look at its rival:

An erroneous report Wednesday that an operation was under way to rescue 21 South Korean hostages in Afghanistan played widely in the media, raising questions about whether reporting such maneuvers in real time might put the operation itself at risk.
… CNN’s Kiran Chetry, at 8:29 a.m., said that Reuters had reported that a rescue operation had started. Fox News Channel’s Steve Doocy said there were “some wire reports today that the army over there is dropping leaflets on towns saying, you know, you better get out because we are about to launch an operation to try to liberate these people.”
ABC News ran the Reuters report on its Web site, although spokesman Cathie Levine said the network had—incorrectly, it turned out—confirmed the report. It was couched on “Good Morning America,” where it was reported that a rescue operation “may be getting under way.”
A report on BBC News was led: “Fighting has erupted in the area where a group of South Korean hostages are being held by the Taliban, suggesting an operation has begun to free them.”
… Reuters declined to address the issue [of why they had got it so wrong], other than to note that its original report had been sourced to an Afghan official.

For more on Reuters, see here.

Tom Gross — Tom Gross is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.

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