Yemen and Reuters (2)

Reuters news agency has finally issued a statement about Mohamed Sudam, its Yemen-based reporter who also works as President Saleh's official interpreter and secretary.

The Felix Arabia blog provides this translation of the statement which was originally issued in Arabic:

"For more than 160 years the coverage of Reuters in the Middle East has been a trustworthy source of news. We consider that the work of Mohammed Sudam as a part-time reporter rises to the international standards that we adhere to around the world."

That is simply not good enough, because it entirely misses the point. The point is that Sudam's double employment, by both Reuters and the president of Yemen creates the appearance of a conflict of interest (if not an actual conflict of interest too). No respectable news organisation would allow that – so why does Reuters?

There is a very simple test that news organisations can apply in this sort of situation. Imagine that every report by Sudam carried a note at the end saying: "Mohamed Sudam is President Saleh's interpreter and secretary." 

Would Reuters be embarrassed by that? Would readers regard the reports as less trustworthy? If the answer to either question is yes, they should put a stop to it immediately.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 17 November 2011


UPDATE, 21.00 GMT 17 November: Sudam has gone. Reuters has now issued another statement. It says:

"Sudam"s work as a Reuters stringer over the course of many years has been fair and accurate. When he became a translator for the president, he disclosed his role to Reuters. On reviewing the matter, however, we believe it’s not appropriate to use a stringer who is also working for the government. He is no longer reporting for us from Yemen."