Blind trust in controversial ‘citizen investigation’ outlet Bellingcat prompted Newsweek editors to drop a report on the latest OPCW leaks, the author of the piece who resigned from the magazine after the incident told RT.
Tareq Haddad announced his resignation from Newsweek last week, accusing the magazine of “suppressing” his attempt to report on a leaked email casting doubts on the results of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation into an April 2018 chemical attack in Douma, Syria, which allegedly killed dozens of civilians. The OPCW sent a fact-finding mission to the site, which pinned the blame for the attack on Damascus. While witnesses who later spoke in the Hague said the White Helmets’ video of the attack was staged.
Haddad also issued a scathing rebuke to the Newsweek – and Western journalism in general – by accusing it of siding with the American warmongers to promote the US wars and obscure the truth. Now he also revealed to RT that it was the editorial board’s quite peculiar pick of trustworthy sources that gave a rise to the whole issue in the first place.
Haddad first approached his editors with an OPCW leaks story pitch, citing an opinion piece by Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday.
“The fact that another British journalist has published it in a reputable publication, I thought, was more than enough for Newsweek to be able to do that,” he told RT.
The editors simply discarded this idea by calling Hitchens – a man Haddad describes as an “accomplished journalist [working] for more than 12 years” – not trustworthy enough. Instead, they referred him to a Bellingcat article supposedly debunking the whole leak story.
When he pressed on for publishing the OPCW leak story, the editors started “nitpicking” on his other articles “just to be able to attack [him] in an email,” instead of providing any other arguments in defense of their own position, he told RT. Even the fact that Reuters verified the email, saying that an OPCW source confirmed the email was genuine, was simply cast aside by the editorial board. Haddad saw this as a particular sign of trouble.
“If news organizations cannot trust the reporting of Reuters anymore that speaks of what a kind of topsy turvy the world has become. Journalists have always trusted Reuters to produce reporting or supplement our reporting. That was a big worrying sign for me.”
Haddad himself firmly believes that Bellingcat is far from being a backbone of journalistic integrity.
“In my own research, I have come to learn that Bellingcat is not something that they purport to be, so I do not think that we as journalists should be relying on them for all information,” he said.
Bellingcat, a controversial self-described ‘citizen investigation’ outlet, shot to prominence over its online “open source investigations” several years ago, even though its founder Eliot Higgins has no scientific training whatsoever. The results of his investigations appear to be perfectly aligned with Washington’s and London’s narratives – particularly on Syria and Ukraine. The clout it soon came to enjoy in the Western media even allowed Bellingcat to challenge scientific reports that questioned mainstream media narratives on these issues.