Newsweek Deserves Harsh Criticism
Now that Newsweek has all but retracted its story alleging Guantanamo Bay interrogators flushed a Quran down the toilet, the 72-year old weekly news magazine will undoubtedly and deservedly face a storm of criticism.
Fifteen people died when rioting broke out in the Muslim world as a result of the story. While the culpability for those deaths rests squarely on the shoulders of the rioters (see our report here), Newsweek deserves serious criticism for releasing such an inflammatory story without first having solid proof and real corroboration that the incident actually did occur. While Newsweek could not have known that their poor journalism would lead to death, they had to know the story would send shockwaves through both the U.S. and the Muslim world.
In cases where a news story will obviously have serious repercussions we should expect our media to apply the same standard to the story that our society applies to convicting criminals: the allegations should be provable beyond a reasonable doubt.
Newsweek failed this test. Even if the allegations turn out to be true, Newsweek had no business releasing the story until the truth of the incident could be proved. All the reporters and editors involved in this incredibly poor decision should be severely reprimanded if not out-right fired. It’s probably the best chance Newsweek has to regain its credibility.
For an excellent round-up of reactions to this story, see The Moderate Voice.