Prominent and influential Western news media “got it wrong” on Monday in reporting that Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi had backtracked on his decision to claim sweeping powers beyond the judicial review.
Some news media published apologies for the mistake, others just chose not to and opted for making amendments to cover up their mistakes.
The Guardian initially published the headline “Morsi's compromise fails to quell protests” but then the headline was changed and the live log even issued an apology. “Update: Apologies for falling for the spin earlier in the misleading headline to the blog.”
The New York Times article currently on their website, “Seeming Retreat by Egypt Leader on New Powers,” shows a slight change from an earlier title with the word “Seeming” added.
The Washington Post article still online -- “Egypt’s Morsi appears to accept some limits on his power” -- was re-published by The Independent.
A YouTube video, meanwhile, showed a BBC correspondent from Tahrir reporting that “Morsi appears to limit scope of powers” after a meeting with judges.
The Egyptian president had met with Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council to try to diffuse tensions over his controversial decrees. Liberal activists and judges asked him to withdraw his “constitutional declaration” but he has refused to do so.
Following his meeting with the judicial council, his presidential spokesman Yasser Ali made it clear on the state television from the beginning that there was “no change to constitutional announcement.” Why then did major Western news media get it wrong?
This is a question that has sparked quiet some controversy, with some observers going as to argue that the “false reporting” could even be intentional!
Adel Iskandar, a Middle East media scholar, analyst, and academic asked on a Facebook post whether the false reporting was “an honest mistake from the Times or a little Muslim Brotherhood waxing?” and that he was “worried this seemingly innocuous mistake is intentional.”
Ahmed Shokr, an Arab columnist, also commenting on the Times article wrote on Facebook post, “This headline is totally wrong. The presidential spokesperson was clear tonight. Mursi has promised to use his sweeping powers only for “sovereign decisions” (just like he promised many months ago that the Muslim Brotherhood would not field a presidential candidate). However, the controversial decree remains unchanged. How embarrassing for the NYT.”
Sultan al-Qassemi, a prominent Arab commentator and one of the first who took note of the misleading Western media reports, wrote in an online post, “My problem is that the Obama administration has been totally backing the Muslim Brotherhood and have been silent on Morsy's latest power grab.”
“This is exactly the mistake they committed with Mubarak whom the U.S. government bankrolled with billions of dollars. The Washington elite end up reading the NYT and WashPost's incorrect headlines and assume that Morsy has backed off from his power grab and that it's business as usual.”