SUDAN WATCH: Inaccurate BBC report on Sudan elections (Alex de Waal)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Inaccurate BBC report on Sudan elections (Alex de Waal)

Quote of the Day
"A general rule for the current situation is that those who know most, speak least, and those who are appearing most frequently in the media, usually know less.

Finding the truth is always hard in the Sudanese political scene. At the moment it is simply impossible."
- Alex de Waal, 02 April 2010
Source: ssrc.org blog Making Sense of Sudan
On Confusion
By Alex de Waal
Friday, 02 April 2009:
A senior member of a Sudanese opposition party, was present at the meeting of the leaders of the Juba Alliance in which the issue of boycotting the elections was discussed at length. From the meeting he knew precisely where each of the parties stood: which were for contesting the elections, which were for comprehensive boycott, and which were for partial boycott or were undecided. In the circumstances, his information was as precise, accurate, and up to date as any.

On leaving the meeting he saw the BBC news which was reporting a comprehensive boycott. This threw him into confusion. Assuming that the BBC had better information than he did, he also reported the BBC’s report as fact. The BBC report was actually inaccurate.

The last 72 hours have been characterized by confusion, conflicting information and shifting positions. It has not been helped by the fact that some political leaders express different opinions to different audiences, changing their language and emphasis, sometimes by the hour. Few of the political parties have sufficient internal discipline for all their spokesmen to give the same message, so that depending on who is speaking, a different story emerges. There is a vast amount of rumour and inference.
A general rule for the current situation is that those who know most, speak least, and those who are appearing most frequently in the media, usually know less.

In these circumstances, news reports and the publications by international groups often carry unwarranted weight. The position of the U.S. has been very clear: it wants the election to proceed. But some political leaders, particularly at the second level, take reports of non-governmental organizations which are taking a principled stand against the elections, as indicative of what the international community will do.

Finding the truth is always hard in the Sudanese political scene. At the moment it is simply impossible. [End of copy]
Further reading

The BBC report mentioned above has been updated today, Friday, 02 April 2010. Here is a partial copy of the original report published on Thursday, 01 April 2010 (hat tip: http://anthonythomas.posterous.com)
BBC News: Sudan opposition parties join SPLM election boycott
Thursday, 01 April 2010
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8599567.stm
Sudan opposition parties join SPLM election boycott
Nearly all opposition parties in Sudan have joined the southern SPLM in boycotting this month's presidential poll over fraud and security fears.

It is a major blow to the credibility of the 11-13 April election - the first national multi-party poll for 24 years, the BBC's James Copnall says.

The announcement comes after crisis talks hosted by US envoy Scott Gration.

President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur, now faces only one major challenger.

Veteran Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi confirmed that candidates from his Popular Congress Party would contest the poll.

But the Umma party of former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Communist party have all said they will no longer participate.

The opposition parties and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - which serves in a coalition at national level with President Omar al-Bashir - all believe the electoral process has been rigged in favour of his National Congress Party.

They say the registration process has been flawed, and their access to state media and rights to hold rallies restricted.

Click here to continue reading. [End of copy]
Sudan opposition parties join SPLM election boycott‎
APA - Apr 01, 2010
Nearly all Sudanese opposition parties have joined the southern SPLM in ... The BBC’s James Copnall in Khartoum says the boycott is a major blow to the credibility of the election - the first national multi-party poll for 24 years. The announcement comes after crisis talks hosted by US envoy Scott Gration ...

Sudan: Chief Electoral Affairs Officer of UNMIS urges journalists to report objectively and responsibly during the general elections
Sudan Watch - Feb 16, 2010
“It is incredibly important for journalists to verify information. They must not spread rumors and they should try to reflect the opinion of experts as well as the diversity of opinion within Sudanese society and I think in that way we can help these elections to be peaceful." - James Ray Kennedy, Chief Electoral Affairs Officer of UNMIS, 11 Feb 2010

AFP misquoted UN chief Ban Ki Moon - How a translation error led to an international incident
Sudan Watch - Feb 06, 2010

Reuters Handbook of Journalism - The 10 Absolutes of Reuters Journalism
Sudan Watch - Jul 10, 2009:
The 10 Absolutes of Reuters Journalism
Always hold accuracy sacrosanct
Always correct an error openly
Always strive for balance and freedom from bias
Always reveal a conflict of interest to a manager
Always respect privileged information
Always protect their sources from the authorities
Always guard against putting their opinion in a news story
Never fabricate or plagiarise
Never alter a still or moving image beyond the requirements of normal image enhancement
Never pay for a story and never accept a bribe

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