Reporters without conscience

By: Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

The Washington Post is considered one of the oldest newspapers in the world. Founded about 130 years ago in Washington D.C., it is the most widely circulated daily in the American capital and also very popular in other parts of the United States and around the world.

Since its establishment, it has focused a lot on investigative reporting. Some of its reports have caused quite a stir, for instance, one report led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The daily has won tens of Pulitzers.

The daily covers a wide range of domestic and international issues and is famous for its number of pages per edition. Due to the weight of its Sunday edition, it is jokingly said that readers could use the paper for their morning workout. The daily has a huge network of correspondents and connections within the US and abroad. Many say that whenever the White House needs inside information about any local or foreign issue, it calls the offices of the daily before contacting any government agency.

Such is the reputation of this newspaper. The Washington Post, it is said, does not need to get information from unknown Twitter accounts to confirm their reports and the paper doesn’t deal with sources that don’t wish to reveal their identities. Well, that is the general perception about the prestigious daily. However, it seems that there has been a change in the paper’s approach. It appears that some of its correspondents and even the bureaux chief have started to rely on unknown Twitter accounts and dubious sources.

Actually an Op-Ed on Saudi Arabia written by Washington Post’s Beirut Bureau chief Liz Sly prompted me to write this article.

Sly covers Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. I am not sure if Sly has ever been to the Kingdom. If she has ever visited Saudi Arabia, it is unclear what part she visited and whether she knows any Saudi official. She wrote an “extensive” article about what she thought to be a sensitive issue. The article “Appointment of deputy heir to throne stirs controversy in Saudi Arabia.” The writer miserably failed to define the meaning of controversy, as we felt nothing in the Kingdom.

I believe that the article was written for those who had never been to Saudi Arabia and to create unnecessary ripples. Such write-ups gain immense popularity in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring.

The article appeared like a history lesson for beginners. Since 1950s such articles about Saudi Arabia keep making headlines every now and then. Interestingly, most of such articles and reports have proven to be far from truth.

However, such an article appearing in a prestigious daily quoting some former “unidentified” Saudi official came as a surprise. The writer, interestingly, used an unknown Twitter account to confirm its source of information.

Sly forgot to mention that Saudi Arabia is becoming more influential and is viewed as one of the most stable and secure countries in the world. We have nine million expatriates working in the Kingdom and many millions are willing to come over to Saudi Arabia. So, what makes millions of people want to work and live in a country like Saudi Arabia? Nowadays, the Kingdom is experiencing the longest economic booms in its history and things are more stable and secure amid turbulent political events in the region.

As for the succession process, then it is an internal matter that the Saudis always deal with smoothly since the establishment of the country. As a matter of fact, Saudi Arabia has one of the smoothest power transitions in the world. And ironically, Sly did not quote any reliable Saudi official with name and title. The only source that she quoted with a name and title was an American analyst Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

I have also written an article on royal succession in Arab News. Maybe I should have named it, Saudi history 101 because I never anticipated the day when a newspaper like The Washington Post would use unknown and ambiguous Twitter accounts to get information about an important strategic country like Saudi Arabia.






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