Several news outlets published photos of a Moroccan woman named Nabila Bakkatha, falsely identifying her as one of the terror cell members who died during the raid in Saint-Denis, just days after the attacks in Paris.
The woman who died in the Nov. 18 Saint-Denis raids was Hasna Ait Boulahcen, not Nabila Bakkatha.
Bakkatha, who resides in Morocco, wasn’t involved at all and wasn’t the person the media said she was. Bakkatha was falsely implicated because news outlets, including the New York Post and the Daily Mail, published photos of her misidentified as Ait Boulahcen.
“Bakkatha told CNN that a former friend sold photographs of her to a journalist, taking advantage of similarities in her looks to Ait Boulahcen,” according to CNN. One of the photos which got a lot of attention was of Bakkatha taking a bubble bath. That photo made it to the front page of the New York Post, where she was called a “thug in a tub” and the “Paris suicide bomber.”
Bakkatha said a friend of hers took the photograph around 2007. The friend “sold it to a French journalist after the Paris attacks in revenge,” Bakkatha told CNN.
The effects are serious, she explained: “My life changed drastically, I stopped going to work, and I cannot go out anymore as I live in continuous fear..I am sure I will face a lot of problems if I travel to France.”
The Daily Mail and News Corp-owned New York Post both published the photo. “The Daily Mail was the first publication to publish it, as the photo credit in the bottom left corner of the Post cover indicates,” Gawker reported.
The Mail’s Nov. 19 story by Hannah Roberts has since removed the photos. It is headlined: “EXCLUSIVE: Extraordinary selfie of terror mastermind’s cousin shows girl blown up in Saint-Denis siege who never read the Koran, liked to drink and smoke and had a reputation for having lots of boyfriends.”
The New York Post’s Nov. 20 story by Natalie Musumeci and Bruce Golding is headlined: “Skanky suicide bomber used to be a selfie-taking party animal.” The photos of Bakkatha have been removed.
Mashable published the photo but later removed it and posted an update about the error. “Removed tweet with photos which misidentified another woman as Aitboulahcen,” the update reads. In a separate story about Bakkatha that busted the photo as not of the St. Denis woman, Mashable noted that it had run the picture in a previous story.
Al Jazeera admitted it “mistakenly published” the picture of Bakkatha. “I have no connection to Hasna or terrorism,” she told Al Jazeera. “My only connection is that my photos were sold to the journalist who published it.”
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“The journalist didn’t research or anything, he just published what he got,” she added to Al Jazeera. See Al Jazeera’s video report below.
Al Jazeera also published a correction for its earlier use of the photo, BuzzFeed noted. The correction reads:
“At the time of production of our first video on the Saint-Denis raids, multiple news outlets identified the suicide bomber as Hasna Aitboulahcen. Following additional reporting that revealed that she was not the suicide bomber, AJ+ immediately updated our original story.
“As for the photos used of Hasna Aitboulahcen, we regret that we failed to confirm that one of the photos used of her by various news outlets around the world was actually a picture of her [Bakkatha]. Once it was made clear that the wrong photo had been used, we took down our original video, and have published an interview with Nabila, the victim of mistaken identity. At AJ+, we try to be as transparent as possible with our audience, and to correct any mistakes we may inadvertently make.”
iMediaEthics has written to the Daily Mail and the New York Post for comment.
UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation told iMediaEthics yesterday that it hasn’t received any complaints about the bubble bath photo.