Previously, I reported on the Sunday Times‘ claims that the Islamic State was profiting from looting, dealing and smuggling of antiquities from Syria and Iraq, and Paul Barford’s debunking of a key piece of allegedly forensic evidence. (The Interpol/Bonhams case could not possibly have involved the Islamic State.) There are still more questions than answers, but at least there are now new questions.
The Chief of the Arab States Unit of UNESCO, Nada Al Hassan, very kindly explained what happened. (To be clear, only one of the Sunday Times journalists interviewed her.)
The Sunday Times journalist made a reference to ISIS in a photo caption. However, this was the journalist’s own mistake and was corrected by her as soon as she realised it.
Again according to Paul Barford’s due diligence on other people’s work, ‘the online version currently [still] has the picture of the stele, captioned: “Isis has imposed a ‘tax’ on looted antiquities in the vast region of Syria and Iraq it controls (Bonhams)”‘.
I did not give any such information to the journalist and did not refer to ISIS in the interview.
How did the journalist first mistakenly use the INTERPOL case as current evidence, then mistakenly attribute Al Hassan’s comments about something else to that case, which “corroborated” the case’s reality and relevance? Did the journalist find the case herself, or did someone else supply it to her? If so, who supplied it to her, how did she check it and how did Al Hassan’s comments on another (still unidentified) case get used to corroborate the false evidence of the irrelevant INTERPOL case?
Updated comment out of discomfort
I feel unable to leave the initial post without comment, especially because the questions are not only directed at the journalist. UNESCO are now accusing the Sunday Times of an unbelievable level of misconduct and mendacity. As Paul’s fact-checking has revealed, the ST has not revised its story as significantly as Al Hassan claims (and may not have revised it at all). I’ve captured an image of the front of the article as it is displayed now, even after Al Hassan’s statements to me.
So, Al Hassan is now alleging that the journalist lied about making the correction, as well fabricated Al Hassan’s comments about the case, and fabricated the connection between the INTERPOL case and the Islamic State. I would dearly love for the Sunday Times to respond in any way whatsoever. Their silence is incomprehensible.