[Marxism] NY Times: Reporter Denies Writing Article That Linked Syrian Rebels to Chemical Attack

Clay Claiborne clayclai at gmail.com
Sun Sep 22 01:28:16 MDT 2013


>   Reporter Denies Writing Article That Linked Syrian Rebels to
>   Chemical Attack
> By ROBERT MACKEY <http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/author/robert-mackey/>
> Updated, 7:58 p.m. | Three weeks after an obscure Internet news
> service claimed that Syrian rebels had admitted responsibility for the
> deadly chemical attack outside Damascus in August, a veteran foreign
> correspondent whose name and reputation lent credibility to the story
> has denied writing the article.
> The journalist, Dale Gavlak, is an American freelancer based in Jordan
> whose work
> <http://news.yahoo.com/officials-arms-shipments-rise-syrian-rebels-203529946.html>
> has been published frequently by The Associated Press. In a statement
> <http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/2013/09/statement-by-dale-gavlak-on-mint-press.html>
> sent first to the British blogger Eliot Higgins, who writes the
> highly-regarded Brown Moses <http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/> blog,
> Ms. Gavlak insisted that her byline should never have been attached to
> the article, which was published on the Web site MintPress News
> <http://www.mintpressnews.com/> on Aug. 29 under the headline,
> "Syrians in Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack
> <http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/>."
> In a subsequent e-mail to The Lede, Ms. Gavlak said that the article
> was based entirely on reporting by her friend Yahya Ababneh
> <https://cache3.pinboard.in/bangpound/5df0b79210da89ed5e54/108.1.html>, a
> Jordanian journalist. Her only role, she said, was to help Mr. Ababneh
> translate his thoughts from Arabic to English. Ms. Gavlak added that
> MintPress, a start-up based in Minnesota, had refused "repeated
> demands" to remove her byline from the article and that she has now
> retained a lawyer to press her case.
> Though Ms. Gavlak said that she considers Mr. Ababneh to be "a
> reputable journalist," she stressed in her note to The Lede: "There
> was no fact finding or reporting by me for the piece. I did not travel
> to Syria, so I cannot corroborate his account." According to Ms.
> Gavlak, the 26-year-old editor in chief of MintPress, Mnar Muhawesh
> <http://www.startribune.com/nation/129467228.html> told her in
> writing: "We will not be removing your name from the byline as this is
> an existential issue for MintPress and an issue of credibility as this
> will appear as though we are lying."
> Ms. Muhawesh, who founded the Minnesota-based site last year, disputed
> Ms. Gavlak's account in a written response to questions from The Lede.
> The Palestinian-American MintPress editor said that Ms. Gavlak first
> pitched the story and then "wrote the article in its entirety" after
> conducting additional reporting from Jordan, which seemed to confirm
> what Mr. Ababneh was told in Syria, "that the Saudis have been
> supplying rebels with chemical weapons."
> She added: "We hold Dale Gavlak in the highest esteem and sympathize
> with her for the pressure she is receiving, but removing her name from
> the story would not be honest journalism and therefore, as stated
> before, we are not willing to remove her name from the article."
> Mr. Ababneh has not yet responded to a request for comment.
> While it is impossible to determine who is right based on these
> conflicting statements, one part of Ms. Gavlak's account, sent to both
> The Lede and the Brown Moses blog, seems to suggest that it was
> perhaps not so unusual for MintPress to have given her at least a
> share of the byline. Quoting from what she said was an email she sent
> to her MintPress editors on the day of publication, Ms. Gavlak said
> she wrote: "Pls find the Syria story I mentioned uploaded on Google
> Docs. This should go under Yahya Ababneh's byline. I helped him write
> up his story but he should get all the credit for this."
> Since late August, though, the MintPress report has been repeatedly
> mischaracterized as an admission of guilt made by Syrian rebels to an
> "Associated Press correspondent." As Russian officials continued to
> argue that the Syrian government might not have been responsible for
> the attack, one report in the state-owned Russian media
> <http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_08_30/Syrian-rebels-take-responsibility-for-the-chemical-attack-admitting-the-weapons-were-provided-by-Saudis-1203/>
> began, "In an interview with Dale Gavlak, a Middle East correspondent
> for the Associated Press and Mint Press News, Syrian rebels tacitly
> implied that they were responsible for last week's chemical attack."
> Time again in the online debate over the attacks, bloggers who defend
> the Syrian government
> <http://www.infowars.com/rebels-admit-responsibility-for-chemical-weapons-attack/>
> and oppose American military intervention
> <http://shoebat.com/2013/08/30/ap-reporter-syrian-rebels-behind-chemical-attack/>
> have argued that the MintPress article was credible since it was
> written by an A.P. reporter. Ms. Gavlak told The Lede that she has
> been suspended by The A.P. as a result of the article.
> The article's central claim, however, that hundreds died outside
> Damascus on Aug. 21 because Syrian rebels carrying poison gas in tubes
> and a "huge gas bottle" had "handled the weapons improperly and set
> off the explosions," seems to have been undermined by the findings of
> United Nations weapons experts who visited the site of the chemical
> attack. As my colleagues Rick Gladstone and C.J. Chivers explained
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/world/europe/syria-united-nations.html?pagewanted=all>,
> information gathered by the U.N. inspectors suggested that poison gas
> in shells with Cyrillic markings was fired into rebel-held areas on
> the outskirts of Damascus from the direction of Syrian government
> forces
> <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/09/17/world/middleeast/tracing-flight-directions.html?ref=middleeast>.
> The dispute over the article has caused even some contributors to
> MintPress to ask questions about its mission and how it is financed.
> Steve Horn, an investigative reporter based in Madison, Wis., said in
> an e-mail that he has decided to cut ties to the news site as a result
> of Ms. Gavlak's objections to how her name was used. "I departed
> because I feel I was misled about the credibility of the article ---
> which I trusted largely because Dale's name was on it --- and because
> of that, I no longer feel it's a credible outlet. Frankly, I'm not
> sure it ever was."
> Ms. Muhawesh, who studied journalism at St. Cloud State and worked
> briefly as an intern at a local news station
> <http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mnar-muhawesh/20/880/73> before launching
> MintPress, declined to name the "retired businesspeople" who provided
> the financial backing for her site in an interview
> <http://www.minnpost.com/david-brauer-blog/2012/01/who-mintpress-and-why-are-they-doing-all-hiring>
> with the local news site MinnPost. She did say, though, that her
> Jordanian-born father-in-law, Odeh Muhawesh, was an important adviser.
> Mr. Muhawesh is chief executive of a software company
> <http://www.linkedin.com/in/omuhawesh> and an adjunct professor of
> theology
> <http://www.stthomas.edu/artsandsciences/boardofadvisors/Odeh%20Muhawesh.htm>
> at the University of St. Thomas. In one of his lectures on theology
> available on YouTube <http://youtu.be/KqokeT2PxKo>, Mr. Muhawesh
> describes himself as a former Sunni Muslim who converted to the Shiite
> sect. His personal Web site begins with a clear affirmation of his
> Shiite beliefs in a statement <http://omuhawesh.com/> that says true
> peace, "according to my faith, will occur when Imam Mahdi, the 12th
> Imam, will appear along with the second coming of Jesus the Messiah."
> Observers and participants in the Syrian conflict are often on the
> look-out for even the slightest hint of sectarian bias in reports on
> events there. As the uprising in Syria has descended into a brutal
> civil war, the fighting has increasingly divided the country along
> sectarian lines, pitting the Sunni Muslim majority, supported by their
> coreligionists in the Gulf states, against President Bashar al-Assad's
> esoteric Alawite sect
> <http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/syrias-ruling-alawite-sect/>
> and the Shiite minority, which is allied with the Shiite rulers of
> Iran and their proxy force in Lebanon, the Hezbollah militia.
> As the journalist Laura Rozen reported
> <https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/381555069004423168> after this post
> was originally published, the Facebook page linked to from Mr.
> Muhawesh's personal Web site, which was recently deleted, included
> several updates
> <http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:peUZssajh2oJ:https://www.facebook.com/Omuhawesh%3Fdirected_target_id%3D0+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a>
> warning against U.S. involvement in the Syrian war.
> Looking at a cached version of the page
> <http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:peUZssajh2oJ:https://www.facebook.com/Omuhawesh%3Fdirected_target_id%3D0+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a>
> captured by Ms. Rozen, reader can see that the final update on the
> Facebook page was a virulently anti-Saudi polemic, which read:
>     Saudi offered military assistance in attacking Syria as they did
>     before in attacking Iraq. Saudis helped get us involved in Iraq
>     then sent in their terrorist Wahhabis to kill 4000 American
>     soldiers. As soon as we get sucked into the Syrian conflict -- and
>     we will -- then Saudi will send in their terrorist Wahhabis to
>     bomb everything American in the region.
>     We are stupid enough to be manipulated by the same government
>     whose citizens formed the majority of the 9/11 hijackers.
> Another long update
> <http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:PH0zktYp3FAJ:https://ar-ar.facebook.com/Omuhawesh/posts/10151560973547050+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a>
> on Mr. Muhawesh's Facebook page --- posted on Aug. 26, two days before
> his daughter-in-law's news site published the article claiming Syrian
> rebels were responsible for the chemical attack --- suggested that
> "There is absolutely no evidence or confirmation that the Assad
> government carried out the alleged chemical attack."
> "Yet another war is upon us," the author suggested. "A war based on
> yet another lie." The post went on to recite a number of subsequently
> discredited arguments that the attack was staged by the rebels,
> including the false claim
> <http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/23/confused-by-how-youtube-assigns-dates-russians-cite-false-claim-on-syria-videos/>
> that "Videos of the alleged attack were posted on the internet by
> allies of the Syrian rebels, BEFORE the attack took place."
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------

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