Fri Sep 20th, 2013 at 08:27:46 PM EST
Three weeks ago I shared the following article: EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack (By Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, MintPress News, August 29, 2013)
Dale Gavlak assisted in the research and writing process of this article, but was not on the ground in Syria. Reporter Yahya Ababneh, with whom the report was written in collaboration, was the correspondent on the ground in Ghouta who spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents.
Gavlak is a MintPress News Middle East correspondent who has been freelancing for the AP as a Amman, Jordan correspondent for nearly a decade. This report is not an Associated Press article; rather it is exclusive to MintPress News.
I am quoting only the byline because this has now become a point of controversy in itself.
Antiwar.com: Retraction and Apology to Our Readers for Mint Press Article on Syria Gas Attack (Eric Garris, September 20, 2013)
On August 31, Antiwar.com reprinted an article from Mint Press News: "Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack." We originally linked to it, but then reprinted on our site at the request of Mint Press because traffic on their site was crashing their server. The validity of the story was primarily based on the fact that the supposed co-author (Dale Gavlak) is a reporter for Associated Press.
Dale Gavlak has issued a statement saying she did not co-author the article and denies that she traveled to Syria or contributed to the article in any way. Here is his statement:
Mint Press News incorrectly used my byline for an article it published on August 29, 2013 alleging chemical weapons usage by Syrian rebels. Despite my repeated requests, made directly and through legal counsel, they have not been willing to issue a retraction stating that I was not the author. Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author of the Mint Press News piece. To date, Mint Press News has refused to act professionally or honestly in regards to disclosing the actual authorship and sources for this story.
I did not travel to Syria, have any discussions with Syrian rebels, or do any other reporting on which the article is based. The article is not based on my personal observations and should not be given credence based on my journalistic reputation. Also, it is false and misleading to attribute comments made in the story as if they were my own statements.
Gavlak has apparently sent an identically worded email
to Brown Moses
, a prominent blogger.
FAIR.org writes about the Mint piece: Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible? (dated September 1, with two Update notices;
deletions in the original, presumably as a result of Dale Gavlak's retraction?)
Let's compare a couple of accounts of the mass deaths apparently caused by chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21. One account comes from the U.S. government (8/30/13), introduced by Secretary of State John Kerry. The other was published by a Minnesota-based news site called Mint Press News (8/29/13).
Unlike the U.S. government, Mint does not have much of a track record, having been founded only about a year and a half ago (CJR, 3/28/12). The founder of the for-profit startup is Mnar Muhawesh, a 24-year-old Palestinian-American woman who believes, reasonably enough, that "our media has absolutely failed our country" (MinnPost, 1/18/12).
One of its two reporters on its Syrian chemical weapons piece, Dale Gavlak, is a longtime Associated Press Mideast stringer who has also done work for NPR and the BBC. AP was one of the few US corporate media outlets to question official assertions about Iraqi WMDs, contrasting Powell's assertions with what could be discerned from on-the-ground reporting (Extra!, 3-4/06).
Mint takes a similar approach to the Syrian story, with a reporter in Ghouta-
not Gavlak but Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian freelancer and journalism grad student-who "spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents." The article reports that "many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out" the chemical attack. The recipients of the chemical weapons are said to be Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda-linked rebel faction that was caught possessing sarin nerve gas in Turkey, according to Turkish press reports (OE Watch, 7/13).
Without Gavlak's byline, and with the allegations of unprofessional behavior on the part of Mint Press News, there's little reason to take the Mint Press story seriously. We leave this post up for the historical record.
So, what's the story here?