Once again I must write objecting to gross inaccuracy in the New York Times’ reporting on Iran. In today’s paper ( “In Bold Step, Europe Nears Embargo on Iran Oil” January 5, 2012), Steven Erlanger writes: “a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective . . .” In fact the IAEA said no such thing. Their most recent report stated that they “could not rule out a military objective.” That is a far cry from stating their conclusion as hard fact.
A number of us who are deeply concerned about this matter recently obtained a retraction from the MinneapolisStar-Tribune on exactly this point, and the New York Times should follow suit. This is not a mere quibble. There is no proof that Iran has a military nuclear program, and asserting that it does, or reporting inaccurately on others’ assertions has serious consequences for foreign policy–particularly as many parties are ginning up some kind of military attack on Iran and use these kinds of statements from the Times as evidence justifying these moves. There is no excuse for this kind of inaccuracy in reporting.
Sincerely, WilliamO.Beeman Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology University of Minnesota, 395 HHH Center 301 19th Avenue S.,Minneapolis,MN 55455 (612) 625-3400, firstname.lastname@example.org
In two articles yesterday (1/5/12), the New York Times misled readers about the state of Iran’s nuclear program.
On the front page, the Times’ Steven Erlanger reported this:
The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign.
There is no such International Atomic Energy Agency assessment. The IAEA report the Times is mischaracterizing raised questions about the state of the Iranian program, and presented the evidence, mostly years old, that Iran’s critics say points towards a weapons program. (This evidence has been challenged by outside analysts–see FAIR Media Advisory, 11/16/11.) But the IAEA report made no firm conclusion that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, and noted that its inspections of Iran’s facilities continue to show no diversion of uranium for military purposes.
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Elsewhere in the Times, readers saw this in a piece by Clifford Krauss about a potential conflict over the Strait of Hormuz:
Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort to thwart its development of nuclear weapons.
Again, Iran has said repeatedly and emphatically that they are doing no such thing.
Interestingly, the Times has changed the Web version of the Erlanger article, removing the relevant paragraph–but without noting the error.
Overstating the case on Iran isn’t a new problem at the Times. One story last month (12/8/11) referred matter-of-factly to the “recent public debate in Israel about whether time is running out for a military strike to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”
With tensions between Iran and the United States rising, and Republican presidential candidates agitating for a more confrontational stance, it is imperative that outlets like the New York Times get the story right. If the Times wishes to do better than it did during the run-up to the Iraq War, it should be more careful.
Contact the New York Times and ask it to investigate and explain the editing of the January 5 front-page article, and to correct both misleading assertions about Iran and nuclear weapons.
Judy Miller Alert! The New York Times Misleads About Iran’s Nuclear Program
It’s deja vu all over again. AIPAC is trying to trick America into another catastrophic war with a Middle Eastern country on behalf of the Likud Party’s colonial ambitions, and the New York Times is misleading its readers about allegations that said country is developing “weapons of mass destruction.”
In an article attributed to Steven Erlanger on January 4 (“Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil “), this paragraph appeared:
The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign. [my emphasis]
The claim that there is “a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective” is not true.
But the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb.
Indeed, if you try now to find the offending paragraph on the New York Times website, you can’t. They took it down. But there is no note, like there is supposed to be, acknowledging that they changed the article, and that there was something wrong with it before. Sneaky, huh?
Indeed, at this writing, if you go to the New York Times website, and search on the phrase, “military objective,” the article pops right up. But if you open the article, the text is gone. But again, there is no explanatory note saying that they changed the text.
This is not an isolated example in the Times‘ reporting. The very same day — January 4 — the New York Times published another article, attributed to Clifford Krauss (“Oil Price Would Skyrocket if Iran Closed the Strait of Hormuz “), that contained the following paragraph.
Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort to thwart its development of nuclear weapons. [my emphasis]
At this writing, that text is still on the New York Timeswebsite.
Of course, referring to Iran’s “development of nuclear weapons” without qualification implies that it is a known fact that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But it is not a known fact. It is an allegation. Indeed, when U.S. officials are speaking publicly for the record, they say the opposite.
This is what the U.S. director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March: “We continue to assess [that] Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
To demand a correction, you can write to the New York Timeshere. To write a letter to the editor, you can write to the New York Timeshere. To complain to the New York Times‘ Public Editor, you write him here.
UPDATE: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has an alert here.
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