The foreign desk at the Associated Press wire service, which provides articles for hundreds of media outlets around the world, apparently has no mechanism in place to correct factual errors. Over the last year, evidence regarding more than half a dozen straight-forward substantive errors, which would have been corrected at major media outlets like the New York Times, Boston Globe, or even National Public Radio, was passed from editor to editor until it fell by the wayside.
This was the case in a June 10 error by correspondent Ali Daraghmeh, who falsely reported that in the West Bank, “Israel does not allow Palestinian officers to patrol in uniform or with arms” (“U.N. crews halt reconstruction in West Bank refugee camp after gunfire”).
The very next day, when the article appeared in newspapers including the Boston Globe, CAMERA provided the AP with numerous news sources showing that Palestinian police in the West Bank have been permitted to patrol in uniform since an agreement was reached with Israeli officials on Jan. 27, 2004. For example, Agence France Presse reported on Jan. 28:
Palestinian policemen, uniformed, but unarmed, began Wednesday to be deployed in West Bank towns where they had all but disappeared since the start of the large-scale Israeli army incursions in 2001.
Dozens of officers, wearing dark blue uniforms, were patrolling the streets of Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarem, Qalqilya in the northern West Bank as well as in the southern city of Hebron, AFP correspondents witnessed.
There are also photographs of Palestinian policemen in these uniforms since the end of January. In particular, AP Wide World Photos has posted the following Jan. 28 European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) photo by Abed al-Hafiz Hashlamoun:
|Palestinian police turn out and chat as they wear their newly issued police uniforms, including winter jackets, camouflage pants and dress wear in a ceremony in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday, 28 January 2004. Palestinian police in West Bank towns and cities began redeploying on the streets for the first time in over a year in an effort to extert [sic] more Palestinian government control over their population.|
Several weeks later, on March 2, EPA issued the following photograph of Palestinian policeman in the West Bank:
|Palestinian police take position during the opening ceremony for the new PLC building (back) which was partly sponsored by the Japanese Government in Ramallah, Tuesday 02 March 2004. EPA/Atef Safadi|
More recently, in the June 14 issue of the Jerusalem Report, Isabel Kershner reported: “A few uniformed PA police are visible on the streets” of Tul Karm in the West Bank. Also, on March 14, 2004, the Chicago Tribune’s Joel Greenberg reported: “Repeated incursions by Israeli forces into Palestinian cities have effectively paralyzed local police forces, whose officers risk being shot if the Israelis spot them carrying weapons, although they are allowed on the streets in uniform.”
And, on April 3, 2004, AFP reported about a demonstration in Jenin: “Hundreds of uniformed Palestinian police participated in the march alongside around 500 armed militants from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. . ..”
CAMERA called the AP International Desk on June 11, asking how best to proceed in pursuing a correction. Our call was directed to Susan Clark at Corporate Communications, and CAMERA put all the sources in writing and emailed the information to her. On Monday, June 14, Ms. Clark indicated that the information had been passed to International Editor Debbie Seward. By Wednesday, June 16, still no correction had been issued, so CAMERA phoned Ms. Seward, who said she would call right back. She never did. On Friday June 18, one week after our initial effort, CAMERA appealed again to the International Desk, reaching a mid-level editor who asked that we fax the information to her and she would see what she could do. Today, Monday, June 21, after finding no correction, CAMERA spoke again with the mid-level editor, who informed CAMERA that too much time has passed and no correction could go out. She promised to send the information to the Jerusalem bureau as an “fyi.”
It is striking that a media institution as large and influential as the Associated Press clearly has no codified correction procedure. Examples of other uncorrected material errors lost in the AP bureaucracy in the last year include the claim that Palestinians were confined to their homes when they were not (AP photos show the population out and about), the statement that “hundreds” of Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait during the Gulf War when AP reports from the time put the statistic closer to half a million, and the fallacious statement that the Oslo Accords “gave birth to the concept of ‘land for peace,'” when the concept was actually introduced by U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 shortly after the 1967 war.
The damage done due to the lack of accountability at the Associated Press is greatly amplified by the policy followed by many newspaper editors who defer to the AP when AP errors appear in their papers. Thus, some refuse to correct a wire story unless the wire service itself sends out a correction. All to often AP’s dereliction is perpetuated when newspaper editors themselves also allow the errors to stand. And, as a result of the error being reproduced in multiple media outlets, the error eventually becomes accepted “fact.”
CAMERA is now seeking a correction at the Boston Globe. Stay tuned, CAMERA Web readers.
JULY 2 UPDATE — AP, Boston Globe Issue Corrections
Nearly three weeks after CAMERA initially contacted the Associated Press with detailed information about the error in Ali Daraghmeh’s June 10 article, the AP issued a correction on July 1. While CAMERA welcomes the correction, it is to be hoped the wire service will institute a more expeditious process to address future errors. The correction stated:
In a June 10 story about the United Nations suspending a construction project in a Palestinian refugee camp after gunmen threatened crews, The Associated Press erroneously reported that Israel does not allow Palestinian officers to patrol in uniform in the West Bank. Current Israeli policy does allow for uniformed Palestinian policemen in the area.
The Boston Globe printed the AP’s correction on July 2.