Reuters is defending one of its reporters in Yemen, Mohamed Sudam, after it was revealed that he also works for the Yemeni president, the New York Times reported. However, the news outlet did later re-assign Sudam following the patently obvious questions of conflict of interest.
Sudam has been working for Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh as his “personal translator” for “several years.” As such, “netizens” have claimed Reuters’ reporting on Yemen is biased, according to Global Voices. Reuters initially issued a statement on the issue, published on the blog Felix Arabia.
“For more than 160 years, Reuters coverage has been a trusted source in the Middle East. Mohammed Suddam’s contributions to the file as a stringer are balanced and meet the high standards we set for the news organization globally.”
Later, Reuters announced that while his work had been “fair and accurate,” Reuters decided “it’s not appropriate to use a stringer who is also working for the government.” Instead, Sudam may report “from elsewhere in the Middle East.” See Reuters’ full statement here on Facebook.
According to the Times, Sudam told Reuters about his work for the president when he was hired as translator. Further, the Times said that Sudam’s translator job “was well known but largely ignored by many inside Yemen’s small world of journalists.”
The Times suggested that the turning point was Sudam’s October 2011 arrest. While the organization Yemen Journalist Syndicate argued he should be released since he’s a reporter, Sudam may have actually been arrested because he was recognized as a government employee.
According to the Times, Committee to Protect Journalists’ Mohamed Abdel Dayem said, “On the face of it, it seems to me that Reuters is making the right call. He’s not an analyst; he’s a translator. It becomes politically inflammatory, but there isn’t an inherent conflict of interest.”