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Guardian makes “error” reading MH17 report, accuses rebels of cover up – UPDATED

In an article compiled by Luke Harding, Shaun Walker and Julian Borger, entitled “MH17 report suggests efforts were made to cover up causes of disaster”, and published October 13, the Guardian claimed the Dutch report on the downing of MH17 alleged there was evidence of a “bungled autopsy” and attempt to “remove foreign objects” from the body of the first officer. The implication was that this had been done in order to conceal the cause of the crash, and the further implication was of course that Russia and the rebels had been involved.

The report by the Dutch safety board said that more than 120 objects, “mostly metal fragments”, were found in the body of the first officer, who had sustained “multiple fractures”.. When Dutch experts identified the captain’s body they found it had already “undergone an external and internal examination to remove foreign objects”.

Despite apparent attempts to remove shrapnel, “hundreds of metal objects were found”, the report said, as well as bone fractures and other injuries.

After this appeared a rebuttal was posted BTL, by the CiFer known as Pigswiggle, who showed conclusively the report made no such claim, or anything remotely like such a claim.

This is a really bizarre inference

[…]

The report is merely explaining that the Captain from Team A was not chosen by the public prosecutor as one of the bodies for further “detailed examination.” The Dutch authorities “found” that the Captain’s body “had already ‘undergone an external and internal examination to remove foreign objects,'” because it was part of the investigation procedure that all the bodies were subjected to (as described in the preceding paragraphs of the report). The Guardian is attempting to accuse Russia of a “cover up” based on the investigative actions of the Netherlands Forensic Institute. Indeed, according to the report, the persons responsible for having removed foreign objects from the Captain was a team of “120 forensic specialists from the National Forensic Investigations Team (LTFO) from the Netherlands and 80 forensic specialists from Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, and New Zealand.”

The Guardian needs to correct this story. It is highly embarrassing to it and its journalists.

[read full text of this comment here]

Following this, and other complaints, October 14 the Guardian issued what amounted to a retraction:

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 18.15.03

and reworded the offending part of the article to read:

The report by the Dutch safety board said that more than 120 objects, “mostly metal fragments”, were found in the body of the first officer, who had sustained “multiple fractures”. Dutch experts performed an “external and internal examination on the the captain’s body” and removed “hundreds of metal fragments”. They also observed bone fractures and other injuries.

Shaun Walker even tweeted the retraction:

Some cynical commenters have pointed out this “error” has had the result of spreading a false and baseless rumour of Russian evidence-tampering around the web. A rumour that the foot-noted retraction will do little to quell – especially since they did not see fit to also change their grossly misleading headline, which as of 20:00 BST October 14 still reads thus:

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 19.40.31

Which means to all intents and purposes the lie is left to stand, “retraction” or no.

Is this ethical journalism?

Anyone who wants to register their opinion on this and/or ask for further correction can write to the Guardian here:

guardian.readers@theguardian.com


UPDATE:

We’ve been contacted by Pigswiggle, who posted the original critique we quote. Apparently since our article appeared his comment has now been taken down. As you can see if you click here.

So, to recap…

  • a Guardian-reader points out a very basic and misleading error in their article.
  • The Guardian “corrects” the error, in the most perfunctory way possible, with a footnote at the very end of the piece.
  • It refuses to change its own misleading headline that no longer even makes sense.

  • It then deletes the comment that pointed out the error.

Those who want to ask for clarification of the reasons why the comment was removed, more than 24 hrs after it was posted, and what “community standards” it breached can write to comment.editors@theguardian.com


47 Comments

  1. Pingback: Guardian Makes 'Error' in Reading of Dutch MH17 Report, Suggesting Cover Up | Timber Exec

  2. @ Denis and his defense of NPR

    if you like your missles named after the country of manufacture, then WHY doesn’t NPR report that USA-missles bombed and killed 255 children in Gaza last summer?
    
  3. pigswiggle says

    I am pigswiggle, Readers and content providers here may find it interesting that the Guardian has now deleted my comment exposing the bias of their journalists in covering the MH17 report issued by the Dutch Safety Board. The comment was not deleted until the next day, well over 24 hours after it was posted. I assume they thought nobody would notice, and a little changing of history never hurt anybody. You know what they say: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

    • TheSweetAntithesis says

      Well done Pigswiggle.

      Unbelievable that they a) remove your post (perhaps embarrassing, as they are reminded of what investigative journalism might look like) and b) fail to amend the headline.

      Guardian is well and truly owned. Their only palm leaf to any kind of social justice is the ongoing ‘Keep it in the ground’ campaign, which is probably serving another interest I am simply missing right now.

    • Jennifer Hor says

      All hail Pigswiggle!

      It was a matter of time before Komment Macht Frei made your comment …. free …

  4. Denis says

    You’re not being accurate or fair, Mao. NPR reported precisely what the Report stated.

    Where does it state this? you ask. Did you read the report?

    Section 3.8.6 pg. beginning at page 143 of the English version sets forth the analysis of where the missile was fired from. It’s an area of 320 sq. km in east Ukraine right adjacent the Russian border. An area under control of the separatists then and now. And those separatists are Russian-backed, then and now.

    So what’s your “no shame” beef with npr reporting?

      • Eric_B says

        the war zone was very fluid.

        someone documented on another blog that a Ukrainian military convoy was able to drive straight through a supposedly solidly separatist controlled area with no problems a few days before the shootdown.

        you cant believe everything you read from idiot western journalists or Ukraine drawing lines on maps as though its world war I or something.

        • Yes, this was a contested area, but it doesn’t even matter. What matters is that the report doesn’t make any assertions on whether it was “an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists” or not. And NPR reports that it does:

          “The report, released Tuesday, also states that the missile was launched from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.”

          NPR lies.

        • Denis says

          This reply to Eric and Mao

          The point raised by Mao and the focus here was npr. Mao implies they were liars for stating that the Dutch reported that the missiles came from an area controlled by the separatists.

          My position is that Mao is going too far with that allegation and that the npr statement was fair comment. That area mapped in the report was certainly well known to have been a part of the area controlled by the separatists.

          Eric raises the point that the Ukelele army had access to that area. And I, too, have read articles claiming that the Ukes were operating near the southern section of that area.

          I guess it comes down to how one defines “control of.” If it means the separation guys were freely operating in the area without being challenged or attacked by the Ukelele army, then npr is correct. And I believe that is what they meant. They weren’t lying.

          If “control of” means completely excluding the Ukes from the area, then the npr statement is likely not accurate.

          I’m not taking a position on who fired the missile. As Robt. Parry states, the USG has refused to provide any of the intel it claims it has that shows the launch and proves who dun it. The fact that the USG is being so coy w/ its intel is the strongest piece of evidence I see implicating the Ukelele army.

          As far as npr, if they were intentionally trying to exclude the Ukes as a suspect, then I agree that would be dishonest. But it looks to me they were accurately reporting on what the Dutch said.

          • Look, Denis, here are the two quotes from that NPR article again:

            “Dutch Safety Board Says Russian Buk Missile Took Down Plane”

            “The report, released Tuesday, also states that the missile was launched from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.”

            It’s very simple: if these aren’t lies, you should be able to produce quotes from the report where it “says” and “states” these things. ‘Russian missile’ and ‘area controlled by separatists’. No?

            I don’t want to sounds rude, because you have been nothing but a gentleman, very polite, and I appreciate it, but I believe this is the situation commonly described as ‘put up of shut up’. No? What am missing here?

            • Denis says

              Mao says: It’s very simple: if these aren’t lies, you should be able to produce quotes from the report where it “says” and “states” these things. ‘Russian missile’ and ‘area controlled by separatists’. No?

              I honestly can’t tell whether you are serious or are having me on. Are you seriously trying to argue that BUKs are not Russian missiles? Are you seriously trying to argue that whoever wrote the npr script had to use exactly the same words that the Dutch report used?

              You ask what you are missing. Apparently a lot. For instance, what you seem to be missing here is that the Report concluded that:

              “The aeroplane was struck by a 9N314M warhead as carried on a 9M38-series missile and launched by a Buk surface-to-air missile system.”

              OK, if you want to now argue that the 9N314M is not a Russian Buk missile, then help yourself, but I’m afraid I don’t have time to listen to it.

              It’s like Eric arguing that the area designated by the Dutch report as the launch site was not within the rebels’ control, and providing some map in Cryillic or something as proof of his point. Jeez. . .

              Good luck with your misinformation program, guys.

              • “OK, if you want to now argue that the 9N314M is not a Russian Buk missile, then help yourself, but I’m afraid I don’t have time to listen to it.”

                9N314M is a warhead, the missile model in the report is 9M38-series. Indeed, 9M38-series is NOT a Russian missile, it’s SOVIET.

                Even if it was ‘Russian’, in the sense you’re using the word here (pretending it’s the most natural way to describe something): my iPhone was most likely made in China; nevertheless, never in my life have I uttered the words: ‘I’ll call you on a Chinese phone’. I refer to it, of course, as ‘my phone’.

                And again, most importantly, ‘Russian missile’ is not in the report. The report prepared by super-experts (presumably) who worked on it for 15 months – and the missile is NOT identified there as ‘Russian’. And NPR says it is. They lie.

              • Eric_B says

                Denis there are approximately 991 9M38M1 missiles carrying that warhead in service in Ukraine.

                Or maybe that’s 990 now.

                Buks as pointed out elsewhere are Soviet missiles not Russian as such.

              • Eric_B says

                “It’s like Eric arguing that the area designated by the Dutch report as the launch site was not within the rebels’ control, and providing some map in Cryillic or something as proof of his point. Jeez. . .”

                I’m sorry to tell you Denis but there are people in the world who don’t speak English.

                And some of them don’t even know how to use proper English style letters.

                It’s a frightening prospect I know. Best for you to stay at home and not question anything.

          • Eric_B says

            the area was ‘well known to have been controlled by separatists’ was it?

            How was this known? Sources?

    • I read the report and I saw the 320 sq. km statement. Nowhere does it say that it was “area under control of the separatists”. And it wasn’t, as far as know.

    • Denis,the Buk missile fired by ukraine was of old soviet manufacture which was one of many given to the Ukraine after the break up of the soviet union. The old soviet buks which ukraine uses up to this day have round shrapnel, whereas the modified Russian Buk missiles use “bow tie” shaped shrapnel. After autopsies were carried out, only round shrapnel was found in the bodies and no bow tie shapes. This also does not explain the left engiine of the plane which was destroyed by something more significant than a BUK missile

  5. Secret Agent says

    The headline is what people remember so it is an essential part of the propaganda campaign. Headlines are often BS and the truth comes out a few days later but by then the correct perception had been imbedded in the minds of the populace.

    I no longer read the Guardian for news. I only read it to keep tabs on the narritAve as it is usually at the forefront.

    • Seamus Padraig says

      “I no longer read the Guardian for news. I only read it to keep tabs on the narritAve as it is usually at the forefront.”

      That’s my policy exactly. And once in a while, when the censors are asleep, I still try and do a little culture-jamming down in the comboxes.

  6. Denis says

    Wait just a flippin’ minute here, folks. Something still smells. I’m trying to figure out . . . like, 120 what?

    The botched Guardian article said 120 objects were removed from the body.

    According to the present article, the Dutch report said that a team of 120 forensics specialists removed the objects, but doesn’t say how many objects. It seems to me that 120 forensics experts working on one body is, on its face, an absurd assertion. So I doubt that translation just on logic grounds.

    The amended Guardian article sticks with the original 120 objects, saying:
    The report by the Dutch safety board said that more than 120 objects, “mostly metal fragments”, were found in the body of the first officer, who had sustained “multiple fractures”.

    The amended Guardian article says nothing about 120 forensics specialists.

    Looks to me like everybody has fair-thee-well cocked-up this one.

    • Eric_B says

      The 120 forensic exports were a team which removed unidentified foreign objects from all the bodies for further examination.

      • Denis says

        Eric, thanks for your clarifying opinion. But that’s not what is stated above. What’s stated above refers unequivocally to the people who removed objects from the Captain’s body, not from “all the bodies.”

        ” Indeed, according to the report, the persons responsible for having removed foreign objects from the Captain was a team of “120 forensic specialists from the National Forensic Investigations Team (LTFO) from the Netherlands and 80 forensic specialists from Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, and New Zealand.””

        The curious thing is the way this number — 120 — comes up attached to two completely different things: the number of objects removed from the body and the number of people doing the removing.

  7. Whoever says

    There were very few commentators countering the ‘Russia did it’ narrative on comment sections yesterday at Guardian. Does that mean that most people had enough of Guardian’s propaganda and starting to desert it..?

    • Given the rate at which anyone questioning the approved racist russophobic narrative is banned or pre-modded, it’s amazing there is anyone there at all to put an opposing view. We’ve been told links to our site or to any source of the video we posted of the Ukrainian BUK at the front line is being instantly taken down today.

      • manicamp says

        Genuine question though: they can’t seem, try as they might, to stem the tide of opposing views under several articles about Russian campaign in Syria, but one has the impression that all those dissenting commentators simply disappear when The Guardian publishes an article about MH17. What is going on?

    • Paolo says

      I was pre modded last year and subsequently anything that i posted criticising the Guardian over the Ukraine conflict or questioning the official line simply wasn’t posted. I no longer read the paper or contribute comments after previously having done so for well over a decade. I assume what remains is a rather ghoulish echo chamber.

    • No, it just means that we no longer consider it anything but Russophobic propagandist trash – which it is.

  8. Pingback: Guardian makes “error” reading MH17 report, accuses rebels of cover up | TheFlippinTruth

  9. David Kidner says

    Taken in isolation, one might accept Shaun Walker’s claim that this was an ‘inadvertent’ error. But regular readers of the Guardian will recognise that this particular type of error occurs frequently enough to suggest systematic bias. Following something Craig Murray wrote, I suspect that the Guardian’s role within the establishment is to maintain the pretence of honest reporting and truth seeking while actually slanting the news in the direction preferred by its neoliberal masters. This sort of bias has become particularly apparent in the censorship of comments – at the moment, especially those concerned with either Israel/Palestine or the Ukraine.

    • Eric_B says

      Look at it as marketing.

      The neoliberal agenda of war and regime change is where the money is, so that’s the agenda that must be pushed.

      The Guardian just markets it to a more left wing/liberal audience.

      Like if you had a different advert for Coke, tailored to different groups.

      • Bruce says

        I’m inclined to agree. It takes too much thought for it to be a concerted conspiracy. That would explain the general incoherence of The Guardian’s reporting.

    • It’s currently promulgating the lies about Bashar al Assad because the politicians want him removed.

  10. Similar kind of stuff is all over the place. Here’s NPR, for example:

    http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/13/448272922/mh17-findings-dutch-safety-board-says-russian-buk-missile-took-down-plane

    Title: “MH17 Findings: Dutch Safety Board Says Russian Buk Missile Took Down Plane” – Russian?

    “The report, released Tuesday, also states that the missile was launched from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.” – What? Where does it state this?

    They have no shame.

Please note the opinions expressed in the comments do not necessarily reflect those of the editors or of OffG as a whole