Postponing Transfer of U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem…Sentence Mistranslated From Reuters Story

AKEED, Aya Khawaldeh

Several local and Arab media outlets have reported on a story carried by the UK-based Reuters News Agency in English and Arabic under the headline "Exclusive: U.S. asks Israel to restrain response to Jerusalem move-document," in a way that does not reflect the accurate meaning due to a translation error. 

The Reuters story spoke about a document sent by the U.S. State Department to its embassy in Tel Aviv, asking it to inform Israeli officials to restrain their response to the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel"s capital because Washington expected a backlash and was weighing the potential threat to American facilities and people. The document was dated 6 December 2017.

Due to the element of speed, several media outlets translated the English report carried by Reuters as it had been posted one hour and 15 minutes before the Arabic story. Some Arabic media outlets made a mistake in translation, which made them publish the same story under the headline "Postponing Transfer of U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Indefinitely." Locally, the story was published on two news websites under the headline "Reuters: U.S. State Department Informs Israel of Postponing Transfer of Embassy to Jerusalem Indefinitely."

The publishing of this mistake shows the importance of the fact that news websites must not depend on copying and must confirm news from its original sources, especially when it is important to a large public in more than one country, such as the U.S. decision on occupied Jerusalem. The copying in this case has led to a repeat of the same mistake in more than one media outlet.

Suleiman Al-Khalidi, chief of the Reuters bureau in Amman, told the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) that some media outlets" mistake of producing inaccurate translation "could be intentional by some political factions or a group of overenthusiastic activists."

He added that "it was not breaking news, but an exclusive report for the agency. This is why it took some time to be translated into Arabic." He said that "usually, correspondents write their news and reports in English and these are translated into Arabic at the Arabic section in Cairo. Breaking news is translated urgently at the same time when it is published in English, while the rest of the news takes between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. In this case, the news was exclusive, and this is why it was translated one hour and 15 minutes after the report was published in English."

According to the Press and Publications Law, the said media outlets have violated professional standards in their publishing of press material as they failed to observe accuracy when taking news from the agency and offered erroneous information, which played a role in misleading readers.

Article 5 of the Press and Publications Law states that "a publication must seek the truth and observe accuracy, neutrality, and objectivity when publishing press material. It must refrain from publishing anything that conflicts with the principles of freedom, national responsibility, human rights, and the values of the Arab-Islamic nation."

Article 9 of the Press Code of Honor also states that the mission of journalism requires accuracy and objectivity, and its practice requires confirming the accuracy of information and news before publishing it. Journalists "must not publish unconfirmed, misleading, distorted, or propagandistic information, including pictures, articles and comments. Moreover, a clear distinction must be made between facts and news on the one hand and commentaries and opinions on the other."