The veracity of Coughlin’s writing on Iran is already under investigation by the PCC following complaints about a headline article in last month’s Telegraph that claimed that Iran was “grooming Bin Laden’s successor”. The story, universally dismissed by Middle East experts, led the organisation Campaign Iran to conduct a broader analysis of the accuracy of Mr Coughlin’s stories and the journalistic methods he uses.
Analysing 44 articles by Mr Coughlin on Iran, the report finds some stark patterns in terms of his journalistic technique:
• Sources are unnamed or untraceable, often “senior Western intelligence officials” or “senior Foreign Office officials”.
• Articles are published at sensitive and delicate times where there has been a relatively positive diplomatic moves towards Iran.
• Articles contain exclusive revelations about Iran combined with eye-catchingly controversial headlines;
• The story upon which the headline is based does not usually exceed one line or at the most one paragraph. The rest of the article focuses on other, often unrelated, information.
The report also reveals that Coughlin has a history of breaking politically important stories that are later shown to be inaccurate. He is the journalist who, discovered “the fact” that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. He was also the journalist who, in 2003, unearthed “the link” between the 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Ata, and the Iraqi intelligence.
Professor Abbas Edalat of Campaign Iran said today:
“The quoting of unnamed sources has always been an essential aspect of news reporting, but Coughlin is abusing the practice in order to give substance otherwise implausible political stories. These stories are repeated as fact on news outlets and websites across the world. They cannot be easily challenged because the unnamed source can never be revealed. During the build-up to the invasion of Iraq Coughlin was behind two very influential stories that helped pave the path to war. Both were later found to be completely untrue. We must be vigilant against similar inaccuracies being used to prepare the path for intervention against Iran, and we call on the PCC to take action against Coughlin and to safeguard the integrity and accuracy of our press.”
The report, ‘Conning the Nation: An Analysis of Con Coughlin’s Reportage on Iran’ has been compiled by Campaign Iran, based on research led by Dr Majid Tafreshi.
For more information visit www.campaigniran.org.uk
Contact: Professor Edalat on 0207 2292375
Press Office: 0797163005 or 07799650791
Sources used by Coughlin’s for his articles published in the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph within the last one year.
10/10/2006: “The West woke up too late to the nuclear threat of rogue states” Source: none.
04/08/2006: “Teheran fund pays war compensation to Hizbollah families”
Source: “A senior security official”.
21/07/2006: “Meanwhile, Iran gets on with its bomb”
14/07/2006: “Israeli crisis is a smoke screen for Iran's nuclear ambitions”
13/07/2006: “Cat and mouse games on border that is 'our front line with Iran’” Source: An Israeli soldier.
12/06/2006: “Iran accused of hiding secret nuclear weapons site”
Source: A senior western diplomat”
11/04/2006: “The West can't let Iran have the bomb”
Source: “An official closely involved in the IAEA's negotiations with Iran”
07/04/2006: “Iran has missiles to carry nuclear warheads”
Source: “A senior US official”
07/04/2006: “UN officials find evidence of secret uranium enrichment plant”
Sources: “A diplomat closely involved in the IAEA's negotiations with Teheran” and “A senior diplomat attached to the IAEA headquarters in Vienna”.
04/04/2006: “Iran's spies watching us, says Israel”
Sources: “A senior Israeli military commander” and “an officer with Israel's northern command”.
06/03/2006: “Teheran park 'cleansed' of traces from nuclear site”
Source: “A senior western official”
11/02/2006: “Iran plant has restarted its nuclear bomb-making equipment”
Source: “A senior Western intelligence official”
30/01/2006: “Iran sets up secret team to infiltrate UN nuclear watchdog, say officials” Source: “a senior western intelligence official”
16/01/2006: “Iran could go nuclear within three years”
Sources: “A senior western intelligence officer” and “an intelligence official”
27/11/2005: “Teheran secretly trains Chechens to fight in Russia”
Source: “a senior intelligence official”
29/10/2005: “Smuggling route [from Iran] opened to supply Iraqi insurgents”
Source: “The National Council of Resistance of Iran”