Fairfax Media burned for using Facebook photo of wrong man

I am no reporter so, I could be wrong here.  But, aren’t reporters supposed to verify their sources?

Australian publisher Fairfax Media, hoping to scoop the competition, ran a story on the shooting and killing of a terror suspect who allegedly stabbed two police officers.  The suspect,  identified as Numan Haider, was a teenager with aspirations of joining ISIS and who had been implicated in a plot to kill Prime Minister Tony Abbott.  With the clock ticking to be the first go get the story out, Fairfax Media was lacking a photo of the man. So, their researchers took to Facebook to find one.

Soon, the suspect’s face was not only on the front page of its web and print edition of its paper The Age but, also, on the front pages web and print editions of its other media properties,  the Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times.

However, there was one, big glaring problem with this story — the person in the picture was not the suspect.  Instead, it was 19-year-old Abu Bakar Alam, a young man with no ties to the suspect in question In fact,  he had no terror ties, period.  Quite simply, Fairfax Media grabbed the wrong photo and ran with it.

On its website, the company boasts a circulation of 10.6 million Australians and another 2.9 million New Zealanders.  So, millions of people saw a photo of a person who was branded “Teen Jihad” by the Sydney Morning Herald and “Teen Terrorist” by The Age. Those millions included Abu Bakar Alam and his family.

As soon as this blunder was discovered, the image was pulled from its web editions but, the damage was done — anyone holding on to a print copy of one of these papers or searching on this incident, could pull up this young man’s picture for years to come.

For its part, Fairfax Media issued an apology on the website for The Age and a similar apology in its print papers:

One of the photographs run on this website, tablet and Fairfax papers in relation to the death of Numan Haider was published in error. The young man in a suit was not  Mr Haider, and we unreservedly apologise to him for the error.

The young man has no connection whatsoever with any extremist or terrorist group and we deeply regret any such inference arising from the publication of the photograph. The picture has been withdrawn from circulation.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Alam is considering legal action against Fairfax Media.

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