AP Clarifies Misinformation on Palestinian Whistleblower

When Fahmi Shabaneh, the former head of the Palestinian Authority’s anti-corruption department, went public in February of this year with documents implicating close associates of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in embezzlement, land theft and fraud, the Arab and Western media reportedly did not want to touch the story. After Shabaneh’s allegations were first published in the Jerusalem Post, the Western media kept mum. Only once an Israeli network broadcast undercover footage of Rafiq Husseini, Abbas’ chief of staff whom Shabaneh accused of sexual extortion for political favors, climbing into the bed of a woman — not his wife — naked and inviting her to join him, did major outlets such as the New York Times and BBC begin to cover the story. Even then, though, they focused on the sex scandal and downplayed the large-scale corruption.
The Associated Press, for its part, ran a brief article on Feb. 10. The headline of the story read: “Israeli TV alleges Palestinian corruption,” as if the source was Israeli television rather than Shabaneh, the actual one alleging corruption.
It is within this context that misinformation about Shabaneh in a later AP article on Abbas’ firing of Rafiq Husseini, published on April 7, 2010, must be viewed. AP wrongly claimed that Shabaneh was fired in 2008, something the official firmly denied and disproved with official documentation.
The error and correction follow:
Error (AP, Mohammed Daraghmeh, 4/7/10): [Fahmi] Shabaneh, who was fired in 2008 for alleged involvement in shady land deals, has tried to reinvent himself as an anti-corruption crusader, though he has not provided proof to back up his claims against [Rafiq] Husseini.

Correction (4/14/10): In an April 7 story about a West Bank corruption investigation, The Associated Press reported that Palestinian intelligence agent-turned whistleblower Fahmi Shabaneh was fired from his job in 2008.

Shabaneh denies he was fired at the time and has presented bank records to The Associated Press showing he received a salary from the Palestinian Authority until February 2010 when he went public with his allegations. He also presented an employment letter saying he was appointed to a different department in the intelligence services in December 2008.

However, the Palestinian intelligence service says that as of 2009, Shabaneh was no longer working for it though government officials had no explanation for why he remained on the payroll until February of this year.

CAMERA: A videotape available on YouTube of Husseini climbing naked into the bed of a woman not his wife and inviting her to join him speaks for itself and stands as proof of Shabaneh’s accusations against Husseini. The woman had earlier approached Abbas’ office seeking assistance. Shabaneh has told CAMERA the first time he heard accuations that he himself was involved in “shady land deals” was in February 2010, following his exposure of the PA corruption.

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