The Media on bin Laden Events: “Too Few Facts, Too Much Imagination” (Tuoi Tre, Vietnam)

By Khong Loan – Danh Duc

The preceding headline belongs to an article in the German newspaper der Spiegel. It shows the press’ suffering during the first days after the U.S. government’s announcement last week that they had killed bin Laden.

This suffering, first of all, must constantly be repeated in such a way that it’s in tune with how U.S. government personnel or the White House spokesman repeats things.

1. Perhaps there are very few events in the world such as this one where the media, in as short a time span as one week, had to reiterate the details regarding bin Laden killing four times without knowing the accuracy of such details. Since the U.S. government is the only source of information regarding the operation, which was executed in a city near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the press had no choice but to take the government’s word at the expense of verifying claims with other sources or using evidence to confirm the facts surrounding the operation.

The public always raises the question “Where’s the truth?” when they receive news from mainstream media. Theoretically, besides biased news, the press must convey the truth, and that truth — as required by professional standards — can only exist if enough evidence is garnered, the journalist/reporter witnessed it firsthand or it is confirmed by at least three independent sources.

But journalistic tenets have been ignored as mainstream media failed to verify and gather evidence and witnesses to provide the public with accurate news. Is what the U.S. government has announced so far truly convincing? These vague, ambiguous elements surrounding the bin Laden event are nurturing too many widespread rumors. This brings to mind what an American judge once said: “Only light can best clean away blemishes.”

2. The press’ next cause of suffering because of bin Laden’s killing was brought about by the media being tempted to provide up-to-the-minute news, which results in its involvement in a race that’s filled with perils to professional standards.

While the world still doesn’t truly believe in bin Laden’s death, a report on the BBC on May 7 entitled “Al Qaida” has already broadcast a report citing a religious forum’s acknowledgments that bin Laden is dead without any confirmation that it’s the real al-Qaida. Since when does a forum whose members can remain anonymous and which doesn’t require accuracy and accountability count as a news source mentioned on mainstream media?

Kelly McBride, news expert at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies in the U.S., believes that in news reporting, speed, which is usually accompanied by errors, is no longer the most important aspect because “who answers the public’s most important questions is more important.”* Social-networking sites like Twitter can disseminate news and much more slanted news at the same time. With so many media agencies, accuracy still overrides speed in news reporting.

It’s the mission to deliver accurate, fair, unbiased news that creates an irreplaceable foothold in society for mainstream media. It’s also the reason why mainstream media doesn’t perish amidst the increasing competition from social media. It also dies and should die if it cannot preserve and uphold all the professional principles and ethics that define its privilege, prestige, and status in society.

“Obama bin Laden is Dead” – Disastrous Mistake!

In haste, news channels have misspelled Osama as Obama, running big headlines like “Obama Bin Laden (is) dead.” This accident happened to ABC News, BBC and anchors for MSNBC.

A “Staged” Photo

On May 6, a website that specializes in ensuring the truthfulness of U.S. media (AIM – Accuracy in Media) claimed that the photo that captured the White House team holding their breath while watching the raid destroying bin Laden is a staged photo!

Don Irvine, President of AIM, headlined his article “Deception: Situation Room Photo Staged.”( According to the author, the photo showing U.S. President Obama and his national security team watching the raid into bin Laden’s hideout is not what it seems.

According to Irvine, Director of the CIA Leon Panetta let it slip to The Telegraph that no way was there live broadcast of the raid since the helmet-mounted digital cameras worn by members of the U.S. Navy SEAL team were all deactivated. In an interview on PBS, Leon Panetta also claimed: “Once those teams went into the compound, I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on. There were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information… We – you know, we had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound.”

Based on CIA Director’s admissions, Don Irvine concluded: “If that was the case what was the national security team looking at? As it turns out it was just another photo op staged by the White House for dramatic effect and it resonated around the world.”

The website for the White House published the photo by White House photographer Pete Souza. It was taken right after that Sunday night alongside President Obama’s announcement of victory: “I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaida… At my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against [bin Laden’s] compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.”

The problem is that nobody said anything about how the Navy SEALs’ cameras were turned off when this photo was published. As a result, the entire press assumed that the White House team was watching the raid from start to finish. And U.S. media naïvely published the photo without tracing the source back to the White House. World media has since then reported on these U.S. news sources, as if the American press had been present in the Situation Room in full attendance to witness everything.


Tuoi Tre, Vietnam

By Khong Loan – Danh Duc

Translated By Anh Huynh

9 May 2011

Edited by Alex Brewer
Vietnam – Tuoi Tre – Original Article (Vietnamese)



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