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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Assassination attempt on Barak? A basic sanity check

From YNet:
Kuwait's Al-Jarida newspaper reported Thursday that Israel was able to prevent an assassination attempt on Defense Minister Ehud Barak, during his visit to Singapore this week.

According to the report, the Mossad – collaborating with local authorities – was able to stop the assassins, who planned on targeting Barak during his visit to the Singapore Air Show.

The newspaper based its report on information from "high ranking Israeli defense officials."
The Jerusalem Post also wrote about this, as did Naharnet and other media.

 Now, if you were a high-ranking Israeli official, and you wanted to leak a spectacular news story, would you go to a Kuwaiti newspaper? Or would you call up Ha'aretz or the New York Times?

There have been dozens of "scoops" in Kuwaiti newspapers over the years, often about Hezbollah or the PLO. None of them that I remember have ever panned out. (Al Jarida reported that a Shalit deal was imminent - in 2009; that Israel was ready to bomb Iran - also in 2009; Israel was planning a series of assassinations of Hezbollah and Hamas figures - in 2008. There are many more.)

The idea that Kuwaiti reporters have better connections in Israel or Lebanon or the territories than local media strains credulity.

I understand that news media want to sell papers, but they should do at least a basic sanity check on items like this. Whatever happened to getting two independent sources?

Articles like these encourage unsavory reporters (and, of course, unethical bloggers) to make things up or to bypass even the most elementary fact checking when breathlessly reporting scoops from anonymous sources. While there will always be unethical bloggers and reporters, it is the responsibility of the more respected media to do a modicum of verification before reporting a story like this - or, at the very least, to inform readers that Al Jarida has a track record of being spectacularly wrong in its scoops.

UPDATE: Israeli officials now deny the report in the update on YNet.