Sometimes it’s so predictable that a local Iraqi provincial governor could be misinformed, overly optimistic, or fearing for his life when he releases a statement via AP such as:
“Police were able to free two of the foreigners kidnapped and they are in good health,” al-Waili said in a telephone interview. He said he thought they were Americans but could not yet confirm their nationality.
The wire copy ends by clarifying that U.S. officials could not confirm that statement, but apparently CNN, MSNBC, and everyone else failed to read that far before changing their headlines from 5 abducted (four Americans and one Austrian, who is reported killed – or perhaps one of the Americans was killed) to Police free 2 hostages.
Not so surprising, of course, a couple hours later when the revised AP copy reads:
A top Iraqi police official in Basra said none of the five kidnapped security company employees had been freed. He claimed the provincial governor, who announced the release of two of the hostages, had confused separate incidents in the region involving private security forces.
In the time it took me to write this — MSNBC has reverted back to the original headline but I was able to capture these screenshots from CNN and AOL. A big problem in Iraq reportingn that I have seen is the confusion regarding specific events (which can repeat themselves on a daily basis) and the time or day it occurred (Baghdad time is UTC+3, or 11 hours ahead of Los Angeles).
Therefore, when hostages are released — it cannot be assumed to be the same hostages. 14 contractors were abducted Thursday and it seems there is another group of contract security workers being mentioned, such as the reported killing of a British security guard. I can’t even follow these reports are so erratic, inconsistent and all over the place.
And let’s not forget that earlier this week, 150 Baghdad civilians were abducted and are being freed, tortured, killed and/or still held hostage.
Let’s get it on, fact-checkers and online news editors and break these headlines more responsibly!
UPDATE: After 2+ hours of making me nervous that I was blowing the story myself, CNN finally changed the story back to 5 hostages, none released, and blamed Iraq for the bad report despite the fact that they were the only government or news outlet continuing to claim that 2 hostages were freed…