Wikipedia Helps NYT Cover Up Reporter's Capture

Wikipedia can be a vehicle for tearing down barriers and democratizing information. Unless the New York Times is involved.

Just as the Times was able to keep 40 other media organizations from reporting on the capture of their own David Rohde, so too were they able to keep Wikipedia from reporting it. They also used his Wikipedia page to try to win favor with the Taliban.

Just three days after Rohde was captured, a user edited his Wikipedia page to reflect his capture, but that edit was quickly deleted, and with the help of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, news of Rohde’s capture was kept off the page until his release. Along with covering up his capture, the Times also edited his page to portray him in a positive light toward the Taliban.

Michael Moss, an investigative reporter at the Times, added some information about Rohde’s past reporting on Guantanamo Bay and on ethic cleansing in Bosnia.
While working for The Christian Science Monitor in mid-1990s, he helped expose the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia.[4] During one trip, he found evidence of mass graves. When he returned secretly and alone to find more evidence, he photographed piles of clothing and human bones near an earthen dam but was detected and imprisoned by Bosnian Serb authorities. An international campaign involving reporters, family and non-governmental experts, including a substantial presence at the Dayton peace talks, led to his release after more than ten days.[citation needed]

This work helped expose the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the region of Srebrenica, and was the subject of study by a class in "Elements of International Reporting" at Columbia University's journalism school in spring 2001. The study explained, "We felt that Rohde's work was ideal for a case study in reporting on gross human rights violations, presenting opportunities to study both the professional techniques and the moral issues that pertain to such work."[2]


Prior to his release, the above excerpt didn’t include the name of his former employer, the Christian Science Monitor, “because it contained the word Christian.”

Jimmy Wales said that the media blackout on Rodhe’s capture helped keep the page censored:
“We were really helped by the fact that it hadn’t appeared in a place we would regard as a reliable source,” he said. “I would have had a really hard time with it if it had.”


His capture had been added a dozen times only to be erased, and the page was often blocked of editing.

The cover up has drawn controversy on the Wikipedia talk page where Wikipedia users comment about what how content should be handled.

One of the users who was involved in adding information about Rohde’s capture posted on March 12:
“We were really helped by the fact that it hadn’t appeared in a place we would regard as a reliable source,” he said. “I would have had a really hard time with it if it had.”


Then when Rohde escaped, the user posted:
”Is that enough proof for you [expletives]? I was right. You were WRONG.”


Someone else posted:
”What happened is just ridiculous. A man's life doesn't justify censorship of informations on Wikipedia. What are good reasons for censorship? The ones that Jimmy Wales chooses? What if someone who has 'power' decides that something must not be published, for his alleged "good reasons". A life perhaps has been saved (are we sure that it was because of the media blackout?), but Wikipedia's neutrality and freedom has been seriously undermined. Not counting the fact that the New York Times editor, with only several phone calls, succeeded in making all the other media not to publish the news...”