Accuracy in Media

The Nation magazine has published a short note regarding the credibility of its U.N. correspondent, Ian Williams. The note said, “In recent days our UN correspondent, Ian Williams, has come under attack from a variety of right-wing pundits and media organizations like Accuracy in Media for writing about the UN while ‘writing articles for the world body and even coaching UN officials on how to deal with the press.’ We believe the key here is disclosure. Williams disclosed these activities on his personal website and, in the future, we will do so in the magazine as well. We continue to have full confidence in Williams’s reporting.”

Full confidence? As we noted in our special report on journalists on the U.N. payroll, The Nation had posted a column by Williams last December, headlined, “The Right’s Assault on Kofi Annan,” Williams insisted that the U.N. Secretary-General was coming under fire in the oil-for-food scandal because he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Williams had declared, “Charges of corruption against UN official Benon Sevan are suspect at best, given that they come via Ahmad Chalabi, who was also the source of the discredited information about Iraq’s illusory weapons, as well as the assurances that Iraqis would greet US and British forces as liberators.” On February 7, however, Annan suspended Sevan, the former head of the oil-for-food program, after an inquiry found that he had repeatedly solicited allocations of oil under the program and had “created a grave and continuing conflict of interest.”

The Nation’s note about Williams says that he “disclosed these activities on his personal website?” That’s only partly true. He hasn’t revealed the amounts of money he has received over the years for writing articles for the U.N. and advising them on how to handle the press. The magazine goes on to say that The Nation “will do so” in the future. Do what? Will The Nation tell us how much money Williams has received from the U.N.?

Strangely, The Nation has now published an article attacking Judith Miller of the Times for her stories about the U.N. and Kofi Annan. The April 18 Nation article is by Russ Baker, who says that Miller has “exaggerated” the U.N.’s problems. Baker complains that Miller’s articles in the Times “have relentlessly sought to tie UN problems” to the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Can you believe that? Miller has the gall to link U.N. problems to the U.N. boss, who has been part of the U.N. since 1962.

Baker, who describes himself as an “old-fashioned muckraking journalist,” doesn’t want to rake any muck at the U.N. and is now making it his business to go after one prominent reporter who does. That’s not surprising. He writes for a publication whose U.N. correspondent, Ian Williams, gets paid by the U.N.

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