Ombudsman Explains Case of Mistaken Identity

The Scotsman’s readers ombudsman has described his paper’s reporting of a story as “unique in [his] journalistic experience”, because of circumstances he wishes were different.

Ian Stewart, writing in today’s paper, was referring to the story of five British men being held hostage in Iraq.

Last week, it was reported that one of the hostages – a ‘Jason’ from Scotland – had taken his own life. It was in fact a different hostage, also called Jason – one from Wales. An apology at the distress caused to the family of Jason, from Scotland, was duly published.

And the circumstances behind the case of mistaken identity is that the Foreign Office has requested the identities of the hostages are not fully revealed, for fear of endangering the hostage’s lives and distressing their families. Hence the Foreign Office has been reluctant to provide full information.

Says Stewart: “The FO may take the view it can do nothing about the information already in the public domain. However, there has to be a realisation that the limited information that is in the public domain can – and has – caused confusion and led to harmful errors.

“If it truly is the FO’s wish to avoid added distress to the families, there has to be far clearer communication with the media.

Read more, here.

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