Tuesday, April 12, 2011

BBC ignores questions on why Raymond Davis story yanked for a day & edited

I apologize for never following up on the BBC yanking of Raymond Davis story (link), which I said would be published at The Brad Blog in March. The BBC never responded to my email, and I got sidetracked, then Raymond Davis was released, but I was able to craft a complete version of the yanked article via painstakingly complicated Google searches.

Since the story had a lot of minor grammar edits - along with the mysterious changes I asked the BBC about - if I was forced to wager I would venture that the story was yanked due to internal editorial concerns and not external US State Dept. pressure, but we'll probably never know.

I'm running this letter for two reasons: 1). To make up for not finishing the article 2). Because the BBC ignored my questions but my sitemeter tells me that someone paid a visit the other day.

Dear BBC News,

Around one half-hour after publishing "Behind the scenes of Pakistan Raymond Davis 'spy' saga" by M Ilyas Khan on Monday morning it was yanked from the net...until it resurfaced a day later - with no explanation - at a different link, with some minor editing but at least four key edits which I hope can be explained as I am writing an article about the changes.

Did the US State Dept. or anyone else from the White House or Pentagon or lobbying for Raymond Davis contact you on Monday morning and ask you to hold the story or change something?

The Associated Press, Washington Post and New York Times have all admitted that they held back reporting on Raymond Davis so I hope the BBC will come clean if they did anything similar.

At first I thought the article was pulled because the BBC was the first major media organization to refer to the alleged attack on the uncle of the suicide victim. But the final version of the article included that, though it had nothing about allegations that the attackers were related to the recruiting by Raymond Davis, as Pakistan and Indian papers have alleged.

The key changes to the article seems to be softening details about the attack involving Raymond Davis.

1) The phrase "self-defence theory" was removed, perhaps due to objections from State Dept.?

2) "two guns found on the boys" was changed to "none of the guns found on the men had been cocked" which turned "boys" to "men" and doesn't specify how many guns were found with the victims.

In addition, there are two changes to the story which I hope you can shed some light on, since they may have been made to protect sources, and if so, I won't dwell on the changes.

1). "___[Note: I'm leaving out name]'s house" was removed from the photo description, perhaps an attempt to protect him, though he's named in story.

I only mention that because the next change might be related to trying to protect source...or it could be something far more problematic.

2) "According to the police report placed before the court, a copy of which is available with BBC" was changed to "According to the police report placed before the court, a copy of which the BBC has seen"

Unlike all of the other edits, this change is of a completely factual nature. Since your reporter first wrote that the BBC had the police report, it seems unlikely that he was lying or mistaken.

But the change to "BBC has seen" might have been made to protect a Punjab police source.

The only two other explanations I can think of is that it was a lie and that an editor should make sure that the report confirms this or if the article is just referring to other newspaper accounts. Or the BBC took it out because they were afraid Pakistan would raise issue with the British government about procuring police documents or something like that.

Please get back to me as soon as possible, I'd like to publish my story in 24 hours. I wrote Mr. Khan on Monday but my email bounced back because I guess I had the wrong address.

thanks, Ron Brynaert


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