Private Eye also notes Hugh Pope, whose book, Dining With Al-Qaeda, also included a shot at Fisk’s credibility. Here’s what happened when Pope fact-checked Fisk:
My particular assertion about Robert Fisk’s journalism comes in a chapter of Dining with al-Qaeda devoted to the question of accuracy in Middle Eastern reporting (pages 20-27). It relates to an episode during the 1991 Iraqi Kurd refugee crisis on the mountains of the Turkish-Iraqi border. A piece by Fisk said that Turkish troops were on a “rampage of looting” stealing Iraqi Kurd refugees’ “blankets, sheets and food”. This, according to him, had led to a near-armed clash between Turkish and British troops. Fisk’s report gravely set back Turkish-allied cooperation in the relief effort . . . .
While putting together Dining with al-Qaeda, I telephoned Fisk’s main named source in those mountains, a British military doctor. To make sure, I also contacted a senior British diplomat in charge in those days, now in retirement. Both flatly denied there was anything near a clash and thought the charges of theft and tensions were sensationalized. Moreover, I noted inconsistencies between Fisk’s accounts in the newspaper and in his memoir (The Great War for Civilization, 2005). For instance, in a major narrative section of his book that is absent from the original article, Fisk meticulously describes a flight to the refugee camp in the crew bay of an Apache helicopter. The trouble is, Apaches have no crew bay.
I had shrunk from confronting Fisk in person with my findings. Most journalists hate publicly accusing each other of making things up – after all, one might oneself be found to have made a slip in a race to a deadline. A major British journalist told me he’d liked Dining with al-Qaeda, but couldn’t review it because it meant making a choice between Fisk (seven times named Britain’s ‘International Reporter of the Year’ ) and me (last known award: my school’s poetry prize).
Gives new meaning to the term fisking.
HonestReporting has its own bone to pick with Fisk: A 2006 front-page story accusing Israel of using depleted uranium shells in Lebanon.
UN and Lebanese scientists proved the charges were unfounded. A formal protest was lodged with the Press Complaints Commission which ruled in al-Indy’s favor. That ruling was on the basis of A) two sentences B) buried in a separate report C) about phosphorus shells D) months later. Yeah, that sure balanced out a splashy front page blood libel.
All in all, Fisk’s credibility is taking a severe hit.
And we still wait for The Independent and/or Fisk to correct the record.
(Image of Fisk via Flickr/mohamedn)