Reuters Continues to Doubt Hikers’ Story

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on August 31, 2011

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-Read the Reuters article below the questions.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

Reuters Headline:  U.S. “hikers” lawyer appeals Iran spying sentences
Reuters Article:  TEHRAN – The lawyer for two Americans convicted of spying in Iran said on Sunday he had lodged an appeal against their eight-year sentences and still hoped they might be pardoned.

Masoud Shafiee has not been able to see Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal since their conviction last week but said they had been informed of the verdict, passed two years after their arrest near the Iraq border where they say they were hiking.

The sentence came as a shock for supporters of the men whose hopes for their imminent release had been raised by positive comments from Iran’s foreign minister.

“I hope because of the holy month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr they might enjoy Islamic clemency,” Shafiee told Reuters.

The end of the Muslim fasting month, which has yet to be announced by religious authorities in Iran, is likely to be on Tuesday or Wednesday and Shafiee said clemency remained a possibility.

Bauer and Fattal were arrested on July 31, 2009 along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was released on $500,000 bail in September 2010 and returned home.

The trio, in their late 20s and early 30s, say they were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq and, if they crossed the unmarked border into Iran, it was by mistake. Under Iranian law, espionage can carry the death penalty.

Their trial took place behind closed doors and no evidence against them has been made public.

The affair has compounded tension between Tehran and Washington, which have had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent storming of the U.S. embassy by revolutionary students.

(Read the Reuters article at reuters.com/article/2011/08/28/us-iran-usa-hikers-appeal-idUSTRE77R1GM20110828)

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BACKGROUND
Facts known about the American hikers: 

  • Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were captured by Iranian soldiers in July 2009. (Shourd was released on bail in Sept. 2010 and is in the U.S.)
  • The three Americans are anti-war, social justice and Palestine Solidarity Movement activists.  They had been living and active in the Middle East, and were on holiday in Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq free from the sectarian struggle that dominates much of Iraq.
  • They had been advised of the suitability of the region for a holiday by friends who had been there and through Internet research; and were recommended the Ahmed Awa waterfall, a popular Kurdish tourist destination, by a number of local people whilst they were in Sulaymaniyah.
  • After visiting the waterfall, they continued walking within what they believed to be Iraqi Kurdistan, up to and including the time they were detained by Iranian border guards. (from wikipedia)

Questions

1. What are scare quotes?

2. What type of bias does Reuters display with the use of scare quotes in the article’s headline?

3.  In addition to the biased headline, Reuters reports in para. 7:  “The trio, in their late 20s and early 30s, say they were hiking in the mountains of northern Iraq and, if they crossed the unmarked border into Iran, it was by mistake.”  Why do you think Reuters, a respected news agency, is implying that they are unsure if the Americans are telling the truth?
(Read a previous post about Reuters use of scare quotes when referring to the hikers.)


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
























Answer(s)

1. Scare quotes are a pair of quotation marks used to emphasize a word or phrase or to indicate its special status, especially to express doubt about its validity or to criticize its use.

2. Reuters’ use of scare quotes is an example of bias by spin. The writer is expressing his opinion that he does not believe the imprisoned Americans were innocent hikers.

3. Opinion question. Answers vary.