The World Health Organization secretly blacklisted one of Buzzfeed’s reporters.
It spilled out this week when a reporter for the New York-based news organization was accidentally included on an internal e-mail exchange among members of WHO’s communications team.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed reporter Tasneem Nashrulla sent an e-mail to WHO communications officer Laura Bellinger. She wanted to know why the news outlet hadn’t been added to WHO’s Ebola situation e-mail distribution list as requested.
Bellinger then forwarded her request to WHO colleagues, noting, “Fyi, I did not respond.”
Although it was unclear why, Bellinger wrote in a subsequent note, “My understanding is that BuzzFeed is banned.” Presumbably by accident, she included Nashrulla on the e-mail. Then supervisors got involved.
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic sent an e-mail to BuzzFeed’s news assignment editor, Tom Namako, explaining the situation. He said WHO had been clashing with Nairobi-based reporter Jina Moore, who had been covering the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Apparently, WHO had since refused to work with her — but not with the entire news organization. He said Bellinger was unaware of the situation.
BuzzFeed’s foreign editor, Miriam Elder, came to Moore’s defense on Twitter,
the reporter has “done some of the most incredible reporting on Ebola.” “You’d think that getting the word out about Ebola would be a priority for the WHO press office,”
Then BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith called out WHO on Twitter.
“When you’re trying to secretly blacklist a great reporter, maybe don’t cc her colleague by accident,” he said.
In a statement e-mailed to The Washington Post, Smith added:
We have great respect for the WHO and understand that they are under a lot of stress. But we are deeply puzzled and frustrated that the World Health Organization would choose to shut out a reporter who is widely seen as one of the sharpest, most humane and important voices on the Ebola crisis, and “ban” her and her millions of readers from firsthand knowledge of their work and the public information they gather.
WHO did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.
This post has been updated.