A hash tag that was started by Yemenis, and was picked up by influential journalist and Twitter pioneers has served its purpose . Reuters today, yesterday, & for the past few weeks has been under Fire; criticized by thousands of Tweeps and Facebook users under #Shameonreuters
Mohammed Sudam a Reuters reporter in Yemen, happens also to be working as President Saleh’s personal translator!! This has caused an outrage, and serious accusations directed towards Reuters. *Conflict of Interest Alert*! In Yemen people were divided into three groups:
- Group 1: Know him as government interrupter
- Group 2: Know him as a journalist
- Group 3: know about him doing both but having been exposed to it from a very long time made it normal (The majority)
So What Changed? Why on the table now?
Last month Sudam was one of the people who were released in the exchange of hostages that happened between commander General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar and the military of president Ali Abdulla Saleh. News of the release became the talk of the street when it was announced that the person released was indeed a journalist and not a soldier. Al Ahmar ‘s side stated that they captured him because he was the personal translator not knowing he was a journalist. As people in Yemen were not shocked, people who lived outside Yemen saw something abnormal.
Hind Hussein also known on twitter as @Dory_Eryani picked this up and with friends launched a twitter campaign and Facebook page, to put pressure on Reuters.
Reuters began its respond by denying, and going round the bush.
Their campaign created a huge buzz especially after France 24/7 Arabic picked it up, and Reuters responded to the show by saying that they had no intention of firing Sudam, and gave this statement: “”For more than 160 years, Reuters coverage has been a trusted source in the Middle East. Mohammed Sudam’s contributions to the file as a stringer are balanced and meet the high standards we set for the news organization globally.”
In addition to the great idea and effort done by Hind Hussein, blogs by the influential Guardian’s Brian Whitaker, and well recognized Sultan Al Qassimi and famous journalist blogger Dima Khateeb helped spread the word Big & Fast!
Today Resuters released that Sudam no longer works for them (or at least won’t be working for them in Yemen) “Sudam’s work as a Reuters stringer over the course of many years has been fair and accurate. When he became a translator for the president, he disclosed his role to Reuters. On reviewing the matter, however, we believe it’s not appropriate to use a stringer who is also working for the government. He is no longer reporting for us from Yemen.”
Reuters credibility on the line?
As Reauters is considered one of the most trusted news sources, overlooking Sudam’s dual situation was clearly a mistake. Looking back at the news related to Yemen, one notices that their news mostly evolved around the President willing to step down “which hasn’t happened yet” and overlooking bigger issues such as fierce attacks on the opposition.
Reuters reputation was shaken all over the world. At least if Sudam’s reporting was objective, one might have said that Reuters were getting an inside scoop from the government. At the end of the day his bigger pay cheque comes from which side? And his loyalty is to whom? On Eid Ali Abdulla Saleh gave a speech that did not include any news about him stepping down, and surprisingly Reuters wrote :” Yemen president says in a speech on state TV that he ‘will be leaving power in the coming days
The irony of the matter that “the translator” did not translate the Arabic Speech to English properly.
This incident draws a red line under transparency in delivering news. All I can say to all media outlets ” Never underestimate your audience’s intelligence”