Published on Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii)

Press Watchdog slammed by 'Dont Attack Iran' Campaigners

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

CASMII UK Press Release: 1 May 2007

Press Watchdog slammed by 'Dont Attack Iran' Campaigners

The Press Complaints Commission was today criticised for a lack lustre response to serious complaints about the use of unnamed sources in articles by the Daily Telegraph. The complaints, in particular the one launched by Professor Abbas Edalat of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) in December last year, centred on the fact that extraordinary claims made in a number of headline articles about the threat posed by Iran were all based on unnamed and untraceable sources.

In an ironic echo of President Bushs demand that Saddam produced WMDs that turned out not to exist, the Press Complaints Commission responded to the complaints, saying that the complainant had not presented any evidence that the unnamed sources had been inaccurately quoted.

The response followed complaints from the international campaign group, CASMII, questioning the reliance of unnamed intelligence sources in several far-fetched articles about Iran by the Daily Telegraphs executive foreign editor, Con Coughlin. On 24 January 2007, relying on an unnamed European defence official Coughlin alleged that North Korea is helping Iran prepare a nuclear weapons test. In December the Telegraph ran a headline article by Coughlin claiming that Iran was grooming Bin Ladens successor. Both stories were universally dismissed by Middle East and military experts, and no attempt has been made to substantiate either allegation over the months since publication. Jeremy Bowen, the BBCs Middle East correspondent described the Bin Laden claims as wholly implausible and pointed out that Al Quaeda, a Sunni organisation would not be supported by the Shia administration in Iran.

These stories led CASMII to conduct a broader analysis of the accuracy of Mr Coughlins stories and the journalistic methods he uses. Analysing 44 articles by Mr Coughlin on Iran, CASMII found some stark patterns in terms of his journalistic technique:

In addition, they revealed that Coughlin was none other than the journalist who, with the help of unnamed intelligence sources discovered the fact that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes and unearthed the link between the 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Ata, and the Iraqi intelligence.

A CASMII UK spokesman said today:

"The response from the PCC would be funny if it were not so serious. Whilst we recognise the quoting of unnamed sources as an essential aspect of news reporting, we asked the PCC to assess whether there were any grounds to find that Coughlin was abusing the practice in order to give substance to otherwise implausible political stories. In their response the PCC dismissed the complaint on the grounds that the complainant had not presented any evidence that the unnamed sources had been inaccurately quoted. It is true that we cannot prove that these unnamed sources do not exist. To be asked to prove something whose very existence is being called into doubt is a logical impossibility. It is reminiscent of the demand made on Iraq to prove they had no WMD and it is the same Catch 22 situation that Iran is facing with regard to their alleged nuclear weapons programme. Rather than the PCC asking us to prove that these mysterious sources exist, the onus should be placed on Coughlin to demonstrate, in strict confidence, that his sources are genuine."

The complaints have now been referred to the Independent Charter Commissioner for further investigation.

CASMII based on research led by Dr Majid Tafreshi, provided a detailed list of sources used by Coughlin for his articles published in the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph within the last year.

For more information contact us by email or visit http://www.campaigniran.org


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