Thursday, September 23, 2004

Journalistic integrity?

Reuters' journalistic integrity is being called in to question:

Reuters, one of the world’s leading information services used extensively by the international media has admitted it has a policy of never using the term terrorists or terrorism in its stories.

This came out when the CanWest Group, Canada’s largest newspaper chain decided to exercise its editorial prerogative when using material obtained from Reuters.

Last week the National Post, one of the group’s papers, changed a Reuters piece that read “…the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four year revolt against Israeli occupation”, to “…the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group waging a four year campaign of violence against Israel”.

Reuters took umbrage over the issue, and took the unusual step of officially demanding its byline be taken off the article, and that if the CanWest group intended to continue this practice, it should no longer use the Reuters byline at all.

In an interview to the New York Times, the agency’s Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger said. “ Any paper can change copy as it sees fit. But if they want to change our copy that way, we would prefer if they removed the Reuters byline”.

He explained that he was concerned such changes could cause “confusion”, which could possibly “endanger our reporters in volatile areas”. “My goal is to protect our reporters and our integrity”, he said. A few days later he made a similar statement while talking to CBC, saying there could be “serious consequences if certain people in the Middle East took offense to the fact that Reuters was defining them as terrorists”.

Scott Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of CanWest said that Reuters is violating the most basic concepts of journalistic integrity and ethics. “If you’re deliberately couching language are you telling the truth?” he asked rhetorically.


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