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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 02:49 PM ET, 11/17/2011

Journalist working for the government: No problem?

UPDATE: Just received this statement from a Thomson Reuters spokesperson:

“Sudam’s work as a Reuters stringer over the course of many years has been fair and accurate. When he became a translator for the president, he disclosed his role to Reuters. On reviewing the matter, however, we believe it’s not appropriate to use a stringer who is also working for the government. He is no longer reporting for us from Yemen.”

Original post:

If you can have a debate about this issue, well, you can have a debate about anything.

Reuters, as it turns out, has had a correspondent in Yemen who works for the Yemeni president as a translator. From the New York Times:

The reporter, Mohamed Sudam, continued to work closely with the president even as he filed regular bylined reports for the news agency on the increasingly violent uprising against [President Ali Abdullah] Saleh’s three decades of authoritarian rule.

The story in the Times, of course, quotes someone raving about this outrageous conflict of interest — an easy quote to get, considering how true it is. There’s a Twitter hashtag out there — #ShameonReuters — slamming the wire service over Sudam’s dual role.

What’s remarkable, though, is that others are defending the setup: “Many people, they think he is close to the president, but actually he is just a staff member and they need him as a translator. He’s not one of their stooges,” the Times quotes a Yemeni expert.

Another expert insists that the arrangement doesn’t qualify as an ”inherent” conflict of interest. Cash, money, a paycheck — that constitutes the most “inherent” conflict of interest of all.

By  |  02:49 PM ET, 11/17/2011

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