In his Friday essay on 15 April 2011 (“The Arab Awakening – a long time coming”) Robert Fisk quoted from an order said to have been issued by the Saudi Minister of the Interior, HRH Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud on 11 March, in which he alleged that Prince Nayef ordered his security forces to show no mercy and to use live rounds on unarmed demonstrators.
Although the essay was published in good faith, we now accept that the “Order” in question is in fact a forgery, and that Prince Nayef did not issue any such order. We apologise sincerely to Prince Nayef for the damage and embarrassment which our reporting of it has caused him.
But what did it take for The Independent and Fisk to back down? The BBC takes up the story that The Independent failed to elaborate on:
Saudi Arabia’s interior minister has accepted undisclosed damages over an article in The Independent newspaper accusing him of ordering police to shoot and kill unarmed protesters.
The newspaper accepted the “order” it reported was in fact a fake.
Its publishers, Independent Print Ltd, also offered “sincere apologies” to Prince Nayef Bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud at London’s High Court.
Prince Nayef has said he will give the “substantial” damages to charity. …
In the article Mr Fisk said The Independent was in possession of the “extraordinary and outrageous” order from Prince Nayef and said it was “worthy of investigation by the International Criminal Court at The Hague”.
The allegation was not put to Prince Nayef, who is also second deputy prime minister and has been interior minister for more than 40 years, before publication, said Mr Earle [representing the prince].
It was reproduced in its entirety on various websites and paraphrased in numerous news stories published by leading Arabic language media, he said.
In October 2006, Fisk was given the front page of The Independent to spread the libel that Israel had used uranium-based weapons in southern Lebanon during the 2006 war. Like the Saudi order, this accusation was also proven to be false, in this case only days after the story was published.
Yet, we are still waiting for a retraction. The story remains online with no retraction from Fisk and The Independent. It appears that such is their arrogance and lack of journalistic integrity, it takes the bottomless pit of Saudi money and legal action to warrant a correction and apology.
The apology marks the second time in recent weeks that The Independent has had to backtrack on the work of one of its “top” – and most anti-Israel – writers.
With columnist Johann Hari stripped of a prestigious journalism prize and suspended from the paper pending an investigation into plagiarism, perhaps it is time that The Independent takes a long hard self-examination of its ethics and those of some of its staff.
Is this another symptom of the malaise currently plaguing the British press as the phone hacking scandal continues to make headlines concerning some UK newspapers?
There is something rotten in The Independent today. We’ve known about it for years, but now the general public is seeing the paper’s credibility collapse in a haze of lies and plagiarism.
It seems that Israel may not be the only victim of a British press out of control. But it might be the only one that won’t get an apology.