The events of the past few days in Ottawa have sparked their share of fake news abroad. Even the prestigious New York Times is accused of disseminating inaccurate information after suggesting on Saturday that police had threatened demonstrators with their weapons during their arrest.
On social networks, several well-known journalists from English Canada have criticized the New York Times of having lacked rigor and strongly denied the fact that the demonstrators of the Freedom Convoy had been ordered to leave Parliament Hill with a weapon pointed at them, as the famous American daily might suggest.
Asked by The duty, Ottawa police say a police operation took place on Saturday morning in a car parked near the Houses of Parliament that contained tear gas and fireworks. The members of the Tactical Unit carried their rifles in plain view during this intervention. But the municipal police department does not specify whether their weapon was pointed at those arrested inside the vehicle.
Not the first inaccuracy
In his articlele New York Times seems to refer to this event. One of the arrested men is quoted in the text as saying the policeman pointed his “military” rifle at his chest before yelling at him to get down.
However, a first version of the text could lead the reader to think that the use of weapons was much more widespread during the dismantling of the convoy of demonstrators this weekend. “Canadian police advanced on protesters at gunpoint, smashing truck windows and arresting protesters outside the Parliament building: an aggressive escalation in the government’s efforts to finally end the protests that have rocked the nation’s capital for three weeks,” read the original version released Saturday, which has since been edited.
This is not the first time that coverage of the protest movement by the New York Times reacts. Last week, the newspaper had to apologize after implying that the government’s Emergency Measures Act decree involved the temporary suspension of civil liberties. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had however repeated that he did not use it for this purpose.
For Stéphanie Chouinard, a professor at Queen’s University, Saturday’s text was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Dismayed, the political scientist chose to cancel her subscription. “Certainly, armed police were on site, and videos circulated showing police entering recreational vehicles with long guns. But in no case was the process of repelling the demonstrators using firearms in the face of the latter, which was understood by the title of the article”, underlines Mme Chouinard to justify his decision.
Called to explain his coverage of events in Ottawa, the New York Timesone of the most respected newspapers in the world, reiterated that the comments in the article were based on the observations of its journalists on the spot.
No question, either, of reformulating the publication which always accompanied the text on social networks on Monday evening. “Police arrested protesters at gunpoint near the Parliament Building in Ottawa in an effort to end protests that have been going on for weeks,” it was further mentioned on the Twitter and Facebook accounts of the American media.
A lot of fake news circulated this weekend in the wake of the end of the siege in Ottawa. A contributor to the conservative Fox News channel notably reported that a protester had died after being trampled by a mounted police horse. The Ottawa police quickly denied the facts, and the journalist, Sara A. Carter, recanted.
That a controversial medium like Fox News disseminates approximate information hardly surprises ex-journalist Alain Saulnier. But we could have expected better this weekend from a newspaper as credible as the New York Times, he continues. “It shows that even the mainstream media make mistakes. The most important thing is that they recognize them. But on the heavy trend, I still have more confidence in the New York Times than in Fox News”, evokes the former news director of Radio-Canada. Mr. Saulnier sees nothing in this other than a mistake in good faith on the part of the journalists of the New York Times.
According to him, the criticism surrounding the coverage of the reference media is above all another reminder that doing international journalism is much more perilous today than when he was a foreign correspondent on the show. Point.
“At the time, we did not have social networks. If we hadn’t been driven by journalistic rigour, we could have said anything, and I don’t think we would have been caught. Fortunately, this is no longer possible today with social networks, because you can cross-check everything. But at the same time, social networks are also a trap for foreign correspondents because it is very easy to be fooled by misinformation,” analyzes Alain Saulnier.