Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Man Who Wasn't There

"A source said that Russian TV reported yesterday that Dubai Police had arrested Madov's killer."

So reports Gulf News today, a statement that, for me, shows neatly how reporting of the Jumeirah Beach Residence shooting has descended into something of a fiasco.

I'd quote yesterday's Reuters file that claimed the man wasn't dead, but it's been updated now - one danger of t'Internet being that when someone goofs, even someone as trusted and respected as Reuters, they can correct it instantly. Reuters now has a file stating that the dead man is Chechen army officer Sulim Yamadayev and another saying that the Russian Consul has confirmed his identity but hasn't seen a passport.

Gulf News yesterday reported that the dead man was called Sulaiman Madov. And today's front page story (the source of that marvellous quote above) continues in that assertion, based on the discovery of Madov's passport on the body by Dubai police. However, GN illustrates its story with pictures of Yamadayev and does refer to 'some media reports' that have identified the man as Yamadayev.

You can tell that GN is caught between a rock and a hard place, having to go with the 'official' identity Madov while (I guess) firmly believing the widespread media reports that Madov was actually Yamadayev. It must have been frustrating for their journalists.

KT's report, meanwhile, says that a Dubai Police spokesperson had confirmed there had 'been an error' about the Madov identity - KT goes with Yamadayev and includes some good background, including a game attempt to get the Austrian embassy to confirm that Yamadayev had been on a Chechen exiles 'death list' that the Austrian government had previously talked about.

The National, which was always firmly in the Yamadayev camp, was able today to feature a good background piece on Yamadayev. The strength of the journalism here is quite apparent - free to go with its own sources and tie together the different streams of information (embassies, wire reports, eye witnesses and so on), The National made up its own mind about the identity of the man and had more time to play with, which meant that it was able to focus on the 'back story' and produce a stronger and more emphatic piece today that focused not only on the facts of the killing, but the complex and often violent background to it.

I'm left with the feeling that yesterday was a race against the clock to try and find out what on earth was happening, a day of speculation and guesswork, intransigent 'official' sources and frustration. It must have been frenetic. But I do think The National came out on top because of its journalism and its ability to practice that journalism without worrying about contradicting an official source and having to wait until the 'error' was made official.

With the recent news that government ministries will have an 'official spokesperson', there is room for some doubt whether that will remain the case in the future.

One can only hope that it will.


the real nick said...

What? Bernie Madoff's dead?! Sensational news - call Gulf News!

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Alex, I think all of them (TN,GN,KT) had no choice but to report the background and the speculations. International media is rife with information about Yamadayev today, it wouldn't make sense for the local UAE newspapers to ignore the subject.

The question is, how close are they going to follow the investigation and to what extent will dubai police be willing to share info with them?

nzm said...

Add to that, some classic Dahi-isms from Dubai's Police Chief and you had all the makings of a derring-do.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Interestingly, the Kipp reported yesterday that the assassination attempt has failed.


So probably the only thing we can reap from the local media coverage today is the police source stating that "He is definiutely dead"...

Media Junkie said...

too bad ours can't even cover it.

premnut said...

Well, its expected our world-class (and I am being sarcastic here) reporters would be hardpressed to get the facts straight without "official" direction. Usually happens in a censored society.
I am so bored with the reporting here that I actually have a good laugh reading the Damac-loves-contractor-loves-Damac ads.brightens my day to think that ad got through an ad agency with QC/QA approval!!

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