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PR lies over the plight of Iraqi translators

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Tagged: / Posted: 24 June 2008

Freelance writer Nicola Cutcher sent this message, which links to a piece she wrote for Comment Is Free, at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/23/iraq

The Daily Mail printed a story in February that said that 1500 Iraqis
would be airlifted to the UK in batches of 100 every fortnight from April
onwards. This claim was repeated in The Telegraph and appeared in The
Guardian a month later.
How many have arrived? Just 18 Iraqis (made up of three former staff and
their families). So just one 'batch', not of 100, but of 18, in a few
months! What happened to the fortnightly flights?
I spoke to Stephen Wright at The Daily Mail who broke the story. He said
he obtained the information from a secret contact in one of the involved
departments (the Home Office or MOD most likely). There are no press
releases from the authorities saying this. When I called the MOD, Home
Office and FCO they all trashed the story. Said they had no idea where it
came from, denied its validity and couldn't tell me when the next arrivals
from Iraq could be. It patently was false as it hasn't happened.
Yet no paper has published a correction or updated their readers on the
failure of this claim to materialise. The Govt have wallowed in the good
press and many people in Britain now believe that interpreters and
translators from Iraq are now safely entering Britain. The truth is that
the Govt really isn't delivering its promises to these people and the
press are failing to hold that failure to account. Only The Times has
really battled with this story.

Iraqis airlifted to the UK

Added: 25 September 2008

It is very easy for a churnalist of the Daily Mail to quote a "secret" contact. He will never have to reveal his source and can in principle say whatever he likes (see the Polish Paper strikes back). The whole story smells of a plant to ease public opinion in favour of Iraqis who helped the UK and get a kick in the backside afterwards and any government has an enormous desire for positive PR. It is no longer important to do the right thing, it is more important to score brownie points with the public. The Daily mail should have used their brains, asking themselves, why would news of this kind have to be "secretly" passed on to the newspapers, it could have been sent out in a press release by the home office or MOD. But alas brains does not seem to be the forte of many churnalists and obviously the editor didn't check it at all. Therefore totally in line with Nick's book.
GV

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