May 30, 2006

Sunday Times Retracts Atwar Bahjat Beheading Story After Bloggers Fact Check

Bumped....because one can never pat oneself on the back too many times.....

The Sunday Times has retracted their May 7th story in which they claimed they had received a video of the beheading murder of female Iraqi reporter, Atwar Bahjat. As first revealed on The Jawa Report, that video was actually of a slain Nepalese truck driver from August of 2004. Thanks to Greyhawk for following up on the retraction and commenting on it here.

Our original story is here: Atwar Bahjat Beheading Video a Hoax

Times retraction: The Iraq execution video that fooled me

First note that the retraction calls the cold-blooded murder of a civilian an 'execution'. The terrorists that murdered a man by beheading and shot 11 of his co-workers on video deemed it an execution for collaboration with Zionists, Crusadors, and apostates. They use such language because it justifies their actions under Islamic law.

It's not murder, they claim, it's an execution of a criminal. Apparently, the Times agrees.

Beyond this, the fact that the Times was wrong should not take away from the fact that a man was murdered. The video still remains a disguisting reminder of the barbaric nature of the "insurgency" being waged in Iraq.

But it is also sad that the story was run without any vetting of the facts and that Ms. Bahjat's friends and family were exposed to such disgusting and gruesome video under the impression that the victim was their loved one. I was horrified watching the video the first time, I cannot even imagine my reaction if I had known the victim.

We were first made aware that the video was probably a hoax by Greyhawk of the Mudville Gazette , after he did a simple Google search and found a Wikipedia entry on Bahjat noting that she had been shot and that images of her body were available from Getty images. The same video sent to the Times had been circulating on the internet at Islamist forums--yes, Islamist forums are full of these snuff videos--as the 'Atwar Bahjat execution' and it was soon brought to my attention that the video was actually that of the murder of a man from Nepal that we had reported in 2004.

While I was away in London, I was contacted Sarah Curnow, a journalist with Australia’s Media Watch (affiliated with the Australian Broadcasting Co.), asking me to verify my accusation that the video was a hoax. She also asked me if I could provide her with a link to the original clip. Since I was away I wasn't able to help her out, but in the meantime she independently verified that our story was right.

Despite the fact that we had written to the Times (and so had other readers, including reader Dan) and told them that their story was incorrect, the Times never got back to us. Apparently, they didn't take us seriously. But thanks to Sarah Curnow, the Times has retracted the story.

Here is the relevant part of the transcript of her story as shown on Australian TV:

There was lots of internet chatter too, about whether Atwar Bahjat had been beheaded.

One blog site - The Jawa Report - said The Sunday Times had been duped.

[quote from our story]

This is the video The Jawa Report identifies.

Once again it's too gruesome to play any further.

But we've watched the video closely and it correlates exactly with the details of the murder described by The Sunday Times.

The paper won't confirm that this is the video they saw, but they stand by their story.

Here is an excerpt from the e-mail sent to Media Watch by The Sunday Times, with the note that The Times did not even respond to my e-mail to them:
It would be quite wrong to suggest that [Hala Jaber] watched a video of a Nepalese man being beheaded and imagined that he was her friend, Atwar Bahjat… This unfortunate woman was identified as Atwar Bahjat by a member of her family and a close friend who watched the video before publication of Hala Jaber's article. We stand by our story.
Go check out the rest of The Media Watch transcript, which notes that Australian media used the alleged Atwar Bahjat video for their own anti-war agenda.

In any event, the Times and Hala Jaber have now retracted their original story:

THREE weeks ago in these pages, I reported that I had seen a video recording of a friend and colleague, Atwar Bahjat, one of Iraq’s top female journalists, having her throat cut and then being decapitated.

I was mistaken. It was a hoax, and I apologise to her family for the pain I have caused them and to the many readers who were distressed by what I wrote.

The video was not of Atwar but of a Nepalese male hostage decapitated two years ago.

Notice the wording right out of The Jawa Report, including the word "hoax" to describe what had happened?

The rest of the story tells how she was duped and offers an apology. Jaber claims she believed in the veracity of the video because it had come from an insurgent group that had proved reliable in the past.

First question: if Hala Jaber has contacts with the insurgency, why is she not being interrogated? Or has the British government forgotten that it is in a shooting war with people that Hala Jaber seems to be acquainted with?

Second question: does the mere fact that you've been to Iraq, are an Arab, and have 'contacts with the insurgency' now make you an 'expert' to the mainstream media? We debunked the Jaber story within hours of learning about it. My only expertise is that I actually follow what the insurgents say by reading poorly translated statements, watching propaganda videos, and lurking on English language Islamist forums. Yet I seem to know more about the Iraqi insurgency than The Sunday Times' expert.

Last, as both Greyhawk and The Media Watch note, what is the underlying agenda of the MSM in wanting to believe this story? Jaber's original story makes a point in saying that the footage is of a 'death squad' murdering Bahjat. That is, she uses the hoax footage to illustrate a point about the 'civil war' which has erupted in Iraq:

There is a wider significance to the appalling footage and the accompanying details. The film appears to show for the first time an Iraqi death squad in action.
[emphasis mine] As we've reported on dozens and dozens of occasions, these video are common from Iraqi insurgent groups and have been so for years. Only someone complete ignorant would dare to make such a claim. Unless, of course, one somehow considers Shia 'death squads' as qualitatively different than Sunni 'insurgents'. Which, if true, also shows a complete lack of understanding of the situation in Iraq since the al Sadre militias have been doing this kind of murder for years.

So, how did Jaber verify the authenticity of the video that was sent to her by a 'reliable source' in the insurgency?

I set my personal feelings aside and, for several hours, examined the horrifying footage repeatedly with my husband, a photographer hugely experienced in Iraq and in the forensic examination of videos.
[emphasis mine] So, she watched the video with her husband. It was her husband who verified the video, who happens to be a forensic video expert. Right.
A colleague in Baghdad, who had known Atwar well, also spent hours poring over the frames in the video and agreed it was her.
I didn't know Atwar Bahjat at all, but I do know what Ms. Jaber's 'contacts' in the insurgency have done and routinely do to prisoners, because I actually try to follow what they say to each other and not only what they say to dupes in the media! Using nothing more than a Google search, Greyhawk first called this a hoax!

There is more in Jaber's explanation, but it is disgusting and sick. She actually sent the video to some of Atwar Bahjat's friends & relatives asking them to verify it. Some of them emphatically claimed it could not be Bahjat, others swore it was. All of them sobbed and cried.

That's real class. Sending a video which shows someone being slowly beheaded to the friends and relatives of the victim. Excuse me, is that your sister's voice coming through the slit in that body's neck?

Disgusting. I can excuse Jaber for mistaking the victim on the video for that Atwar Bahjat, but sending it to the relatives and friends of the victim? Jaber ought to be fired for that alone.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 12:02 PM | Comments |