Newsweek says erred in Koran desecration report

Newsweek magazine on Sunday said it erred in a May 9 report that said U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to the victims of deadly Muslim protests sparked by the article.

“We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst,” Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in the magazine’s latest issue, due to appear on U.S. newsstands on Monday. —David MorganNewsweek says erred in Koran desecration report (Reuters | MyWay)

A tiny item in Newsweek sparked huge international protests in Islamic countries, launching a huge wave of fresh anti-American sentiment, and leading to clashes in which protestors lost their lives.

The Reuters article cites former Guantanamo prisoners who reported abuse of the Koran, but Newsweek felt the accusations suddenly became newsworthy when a U.S. military official corroborated the claims. Later, that official backed down. Since the impetus to go with the story was based on the U.S. official’s confirmation of the story, when that confirmation is withdrawn, Newsweek is left on shaky ground.

Rarely does a journalistic oversight have consequences that are this immediate, this dire, and this uncorrectable:

The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza. In the past week it was condemned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and by the Arab League. On Sunday, Afghan Muslim clerics threatened to call for a holy war against the United States.