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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sgrena: claims and assertions

Posted by: Hammer / 12:15 PM

AP does it:
Without backing up the claim, Sgrena said she believed it was possible she was targeted because the United States objected to methods used to secure her release.
AP does it again:
She has disputed U.S. military accounts that the car was speeding toward the checkpoint and that the Americans used hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and warning shots to get the car to stop. She also declined to rule out that U.S. troops may have shot at her car on purpose but gave no evidence to support the claim.
The LA Times does it, too:
It remained unclear whether the Italians notified the Americans at the airport that they were en route. Scolari, who was not in the car but has been with Sgrena since the shooting, said the Italians had informed U.S. officials of their plans and had cleared one of the several checkpoints that lead to the airport. But that could not be independently verified.
So far in this story, we have nothing but claims and assertions. Journalists ought to be clear in their stories that Sgrena makes "claims"; her claims might prove to be true but it is at least as likely that her claims will prove to be false. The same rule ought to apply to the spokespersons from the Bush administration and the military. Consider this: the administration that claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that claimed that Iraq sought uranium from Africa, that claimed Iraq bought anodized tubes for nuclear weapons, that authored the original Jessica Lynch hagiography, and that most recently claimed that needle exchange programs don't work is not entitled to a presumption of honesty, accuracy, or integrity.

The press ought to report Sgrena's claim alongside the official version of events and then let readers weigh the merits of the claims. The press is welcome to publish relevant facts of Sgrena's life that will aid readers in weighing the merits, but the AP and the LA Times are wrong to go out of their way to specifically question the merits of Sgrena's claims.

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