More than a month after U.S. military officials denied a widely broadcast and published A.P. report that described how a group of Shiite militiamen grabbed six Sunni worshipers as they left a Baghdad mosque and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, the A.P continues to refuse to provide further details about the source of its story.
Originally, the wire service said that the source was an Iraqi police captain named Jamail Hussein, who, it said, had been the source of more than 60 stories during 2006. But military officials have maintained that there is no record of the existence of the police captain, and the New York Times has reported that it was unable to find anyone who could corroborate the reported incident. A spokeswoman for the A.P. told Editor & Publisher Tuesday that it stands by its story and that "it would be highly unusual for any news organization to provide sources on the demands of critics."
But Paul McLeary, who has reported from Iraq for the Columbia Journalism Review, observed Tuesday that this is an unusual case, and that the A.P must produce the source that it has already named "or provide documentation that he exists, or tell us why no one can find a record of his employment by the Iraqi police."
McLeary commented in conclusion: "The A.P. is hurting itself every day it refuses to acknowledge its critics."