Deceptive Gitmo Headlines

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on August 25, 2010

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Example of Media Bias:

Judging by some of the headlines, you’d think that the Gitmo detainee who pled guilty before a military commission [in July] was merely a chef for Osama bin Laden.  A BBC headline read: “Bin Laden chef pleads guilty at Guantanamo Bay trial.” Another headline, from Reuters, [was] in the same vein: “Bin Laden’s cook pleads guilty at Guantanamo.”

The text from both articles provides a bit more context about the detainee in question, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi. Still, the articles fall well short of conveying to readers who al Qosi is, exactly. 

Yes, al Qosi was a cook on occasion for bin Laden. But what the press doesn’t get is that being a chef for bin Laden is a rather big deal. Only the most trustworthy members of al Qaeda are allowed to prepare the terror master’s food. 

Why? Bin Laden and other senior terrorists are very concerned about being poisoned. … interviews of al Qaeda detainees [tell us] that bin Laden and other senior terrorists only allow certain members of their [organization] to touch their food. …

Al Qosi was picked to handle al Qaeda’s food because he was so trustworthy. … [He] voluntarily joined al Qaeda in 1990 and faithfully served bin Laden until about three months after the 9/11 attacks, when he was captured along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. During those 11 years of service (!), al Qosi spent three stints fighting for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

……………………………………….

In late 2001, al Qosi helped bin Laden flee to the Tora Bora Mountains before they parted ways.

In December 2001, al Qosi was detained along the border of Afghanistan-Pakistan and turned over to American forces. He was then shipped off to Guantanamo and today he pled guilty to terrorism charges for providing conspiracy and material support.

It is easy to see why. Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi was no mere cook.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Read his entire post at theweeklystandard.com/blogs/deceptive-gitmo-headlines.

Questions

1.  Why is it important for a news organization to provide an accurate headline for every news article?

2.  Why do you think the BBC and Reuters chose headlines that misrepresented Ahmed al Qosi’s role as a terrorist? What picture do you get in your mind of al Qosi when you read the headlines “Bin Laden chef pleads guilty at Guantanamo Bay trial” and “Bin Laden’s cook pleads guilty at Guantanamo”?


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1. Headlines can greatly influence readers’ opinions about the news. The importance of an accurate headline is that most people don’t read every word of every article; they often just skim the headlines. Therefore, those who read just a headline are not accurately informed when the headline misrepresents the story.  

2. Opinion question. Answers vary.