On the 17th of September, 2012, the website of Fox News carried an article by Catherine Herridge, James Rosen and Pamela Browne that reports a claim made by the Libyan government that, contrary to earlier reports, there were no protests taking place outside the American consulate in Benzaghi before the fatal attacks took place .
According to the article, reports have surfaced that claim the attacks on the US mission, that killed 4 Americans including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, were not spontaneous and may have been preplanned. A week prior to this article, a Libyan security guard who was an eye witness of the attacks was being treated at a hospital, claimed that there was absolute silence outside the consulate just before the attacks. These claims were reiterated by the Libyan president as well.
The Obama administration has always maintained that the attacks were the result of a protest gone awry and wrote of these fresh reports as based on inaccurate data. At the same time, officials acknowledged that a protest that took place earlier in the day was very small and ‘no significant or sizeable’ protest was underway at the time of the attack. The Libyan premier, however, insisted on CBS News’ Face the Nation that the attacks which, took place on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terror strike, were definitely preplanned. This statement was again refuted by U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice.
While officials stated that the consulate was aware of the ongoing protests against a Jewish anti-Islam short film, and claimed that consuls in countries such as Yemen, Egypt and Libya were receiving protection, yet, family members of diplomats and non-essential US personnel were evacuated from Embassies in Sudan and Tunisia.
The main strength of the article lies in its unbiased reporting. The authors show the reader both sides of the coin, the US as well as Libyan versions of the story. They highlight statements made by top officials on both sides and leave it to the audience to judge the credibility of these claims. The report also provides a fairly clear picture of the situation surrounding the attacks. However, for someone who is not aware of the events that lead to widespread protesting not only in Libya but neighboring countries as well, the article does not provide a sufficient overview. A short paragraph on what the protests were about would enable the reader to understand the context better.
In conclusion, despite living in an era where technology has taken communication to an unprecedented level of transparency, the acquisition and sharing of accurate and reliable information in politically ‘sticky’ situations still seems to be a challenge. Officials changing their claims and statements as reports surface does not do much in building trust among the citizens of a country.
Herridge, C., J. Rosen and P. Browne. "No demonstration before attack on US Consulate, source says." 17 September 2012. Foxnews. 20 November 2012