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Newsweek Declines Pentagon Request to Examine Reporting

October 5, 2006

To the Editor:

Your October 2 issue includes an article on Afghanistan titled “The Rise of Jihadistan.” Attached please find our response. In some instances, the authors assert opinions as facts. In other instances, there is a lack of full context regarding Afghanistan, which has for decades been a violent, war-torn country.

As our response is quite lengthy, we are not submitting a letter to the editor. Instead, we would ask for the opportunity to submit a stand-alone column that not only rebuts some of the more sensational charges, but offers your readers a clearer view of the very real challenges we face in Afghanistan—as well as the many achievements of the past five years.

Thank you for considering this request.

 

Sincerely,
Dorrance Smith

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

Attachments: Response to “The Rise of Jihadistan”
“The Rise of Jihadistan”

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October 11, 2006

Dear Mr. Smith,

Thank you for your letter of October 5, with the attached memo “Debunking Newsweek Article on Afghanistan.” The thrust of Defense Department [sic] position is that you disagree with our analysis of the situation in Afghanistan. You are certainly free and welcome to do so, and we’re glad to get your feedback. We’d also be happy to publish a letter to the editor concisely stating your point of view. But I regret that we cannot give you space in the news hole of the magazine to lay out the government position in detail.

If you would like to get together at some point to discuss Afghanistan—or any other issues of interest to you—I’d be happy to do so. I’m newly arrived to Washington (from my previous post as Newsweek’s foreign editor), and would be very pleased to meet at your convenience.

 

Sincerely,
Jeffrey Bartholet

[Washington Bureau Chief]

 

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October 20, 2006

 

Dear Mr. Bartholet:

Your Oct. 11 reply to Dorrance Smith was forwarded to me. As you know, we had written to your editor in New York regarding the Department’s concerns about Newsweek’s Oct. 2 article on Afghanistan.

In your reply, you stated that “the thrust of Defense Department [sic] position is that you disagree with our analysis of the situation in Afghanistan.” That is not our position. Our position is that your article asserted as facts things that were either arguably or demonstrably untrue. (Our response to those assertions is attached—again.)

It concerns us that you now label your disputed article as an “analysis of the situation in Afghanistan”—which implies subjectivity—even though your readers were led to believe that your article was an objective news story. As you are aware, responsible newspapers that seek to insert their reporter’s opinions into articles clearly label those stories as an “analysis” so as not to mislead readers. We therefore ask that you not only correct the misstatements of facts in your article, but also request that you offer your readers a clarification that the article was not intended as an objective news story.

You write that you cannot afford us “space in the news hole of the magazine to lay out the government position in detail,” and instead suggest writing a letter to the editor “concisely stating your point of view.”

This is a troubling response. First, a “concise” letter to the editor, of say, 200 words, cannot adequately address an [sic] 2200-word article containing a series of false assertions. Second, the issue is not Newsweek’s position versus the “government position.” The issue is that your readers were given a one-sided, opinion-laced article on Afghanistan based on falsehoods—which is something that journalists and editors are usually concerned about. Your dismissive reply is disappointing, to say the least.

I hope you will reconsider our request for a fair opportunity to correct the record for your readers.

 

Sincerely,
Matt Latimer

Office of Public Affairs

 

CC: Jon Meacham


PDF Version

 

 
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