The New York Times commits serious journalistic malpractice: Misrepresentation of UNSC Statement On Syria

NYT writer Rick Gladstone commits serious journalistic malpractice in his piece about the UNSC Presidential Statement on Syria. He writes as if the statement was a climbdown of Russia from its position and as if the statement is what the U.S. tried to achieve for month. The opposite is the case. The U.S. was forced to change its position while the Russians won on each of their points. But Gladstone writes:

Overcoming months of bitter division, the United Nations Security Council delivered adiplomatic setback to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Wednesday, unanimously embracing efforts by Kofi Annan, the former secretary general, to negotiate a cease-fire in the year-old Syrian conflict, funnel aid to victims and begin a political transition.

The plan closely resembles an Arab League proposal that Mr. Assad has rejected.

Russia’s endorsement of the statement is an embarrassment for Mr. Assad, who hasrefused to negotiate with his political opponents and has characterized the uprising as a terrorist crime wave.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had expressed anger over Russia’s support for Mr. Assad, praised the Security Council’s action as “a positive step.”“The council has now spoken with one voice,” she added.

There are at least three factual errors in Gladstone’s piece:

  • The Annan plan does not by far resemble the Arab League proposal which called for the immediate step down of Assad
  • The Russian endorsement is not an embarrassment for Assad but is consistent with its5-point plan which China and Bashar Assad endorsed
  • Assad has not refused to negotiate though the rebels rejected Annan’s plan
  • Clinton’s praise is just hiding that she lost the cause

For comparison read how Colum Lynch reports on the same issue for the Washington Post:

The United States and its Arab and European partners have pressed for passage of an Arab League proposal that would have required Assad to yield considerable powers to a transitional government. But Russia, backed by China, recently vetoed a resolution endorsing that plan, insisting that the Syrian government should remain central to any negotiations on a political settlement in Syria.To secure Russian support, the council’s Western and Arab powers were forced to offer several concessions. A council statement, as a result, includes no condemnation of Syria, no specific timetable for a political transition and a watered-down threat of possible action against Syria if it fails to comply with the Annan plan.

At the last minute, the statement’s sponsors also stripped out a U.S. amendmentdemanding that Syria immediately allow U.N. humanitarian workers unimpeded access to civilians.

U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice characterized the council’s action as a “modest step” but added that it offered the greatest hope of reuniting the 15-nation council.

That report sounds quite different from what the New York Times published.

It is clear that the U.S. had to retreat from its position to only condemn violence by the Syrian government side and to call for Assad to go. But no NYT reader will get that point from reading the paper. One wonders what intention Gladstone has with his serious misrepresentation of what happened at the UNSC.

 

Moon of Alabama

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