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Sunday, January 17

"Syrian Field Commander Refutes Reports of 400 People Kidnapped by Daesh"

20:28 - 17.01.2016
Sputnik
A Syrian field commander said that the reports on kidnappings of civilians from the village near the city of Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria are untrue.
DAMASCUS (Sputnik) – A Syrian field commander on Sunday refuted earlier reports claiming that Islamic State (ISIL) also known as Daesh jihadist group had abducted some 400 people near the city of Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria, in a comment to Sputnik.
Earlier in the day, Al Mayadeen TV channel said that Daesh militants killed 280 people in the village of al-Bughailiyeh near Deir al-Zor. According to other reports, the jihadists kidnapped over 400 civilians, including women and children, from the village following the mass killings.
"The reports on kidnappings of civilians from the village are untrue," the field commander said.
[...]
This is further to my post earlier today about the kidnap/hostage claim. See that post for links to sources/reports I refer to in this post.  

At least Sputnik was quick on the draw to publish a refutation of the kidnap claim. But the news site doesn't get off the hook. It wasn't only Lebanese TV that made the claim (and I don't know where they got it from); it was also SOHR. That should have been a red flag, especially because Sputnik has warned at least twice during the past three months that SOHR is a questionable source at best, and because SOHR is a known supporter of 'opposition' fighters in Syria.

Sputnik should have waited for comment from the Syrian military on the kidnap claim before running with it. Same with FARS, which also fell for the kidnap story and still has it up at their site as of 5:10pm EST.

And both these news sites are connected with a government -- Sputnik with the Russian, FARS with Iran's. They should have known better. 

As for Reuters, yeah I know getting a story out fast is a business but for crying out loud, does professionalism have to go clean out the window?

It should go without saying that this wasn't just 'news' these sites were passing along. They were acting as useful idiots, disseminating very damaging propaganda clearly aimed at slowing the Syrian Army's offensive against Islamic State in Deir al-Zor.    

Snap out of it, gentlemen -- and ladies -- of the press. When someone says to you, "It's a lovely day," what do you answer if you're reporting on a battle? 

Louder, I can't hear you. That's right: "What's your source for that claim?"

Now look, often in war the necessity of informing the public has to be weighed against the viability of a source; sometimes the best decision is to go with a claim that hasn't been vetted the way it should be in a perfect world. And we all make mistakes -- but this was an easily avoidable one. 

Stay awake if war reporting is your job. Lives can depend on it. So can my sleep schedule. I had to spend hours untangling all the reports on the kidnap claim -- and I don't get paid to do this.  

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