February 23, 2011

Mostly Suppressed in AP Pirate Hostage/Murder Stories: Leader’s Threat, Couple’s Faith

USA Today’s Wednesday cover story (“Killings Escalate Piracy Crisis”), has this reference to a quote obtained by the Associated Press:

Killing hostages “has now become part of our rules,” said a pirate who identified himself as Muse Abdi in a statement to the Associated Press. “From now on, anyone who tries to rescue the hostages in our hands will only collect dead bodies,” Abdi said. “It will never, ever happen that hostages are rescued and we are hauled to prison.”

Pretty provocative, right? In fact, it resembles a declaration of war without the rules of war. You might even call it a declaration of t-t-t-t … terrorism.

The problem is, Abdi’s quote is no longer in any story at the Associated Press’s home web site, and is rarely present in other Internet news reports.

A search at the AP’s home site on “Muse Abdi” (in quotes) returns no results.

An AP home site search on “Abdi” returns one relevant item that relates to Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, a pirate who was sentenced to 33 years in prison last week. Muse’s sentencing is cited as being a possible motivation for the hostage-taking of Scott Adam, wife Jean Adam, Bob Riggle, and Phyllis Macay, who were killed by their captors on Tuesday.

As of 10:30 ET, six of the seven relevant stories found searching the AP’s home site on “pirates” (here, here, here, here, here, and here) have any reference to Abdi’s specific threat or any more generalized threats made by the pirates. The seventh does:

Pirates reacted angrily to the sentencing and have since vowed that they will kill hostages before being captured during military raids and being sent to face trial.

I believe that most readers will find the quote at the beginning of the post much more provocative than the just-excerpted sentence. The Buffalo News thought that the wording of Abdi’s threat was so significant that it included it in its “Quotations of the Day.” So why water it down?

If the wire service’s goal is to keep Muse Abdi’s inflammatory direct quote out of the news (in an attempt, in my opinion, to minimize the chances that public outrage will force the Obama administration and world leaders to actually do something comprehensive about the deadly pirate/terror menace), it has largely succeeded. A Google News search (sorted by date) on “anyone who tries to rescue the hostages in our hands” (in quote) returns only 26 items. A general Google News search on “pirates kill” (not in quotes) returns over 3,900.

The AP also seems to be going out of its way to avoid tying religion into the killings. Of course, there is frequent reference to the couple’s mission to distribute Bibles. But only one of the cited stories mentions that Scott and Jean Adam were member of St. Monica’s Catholic church in Santa Monica, California. An AP home site search on “Adam Christian” (not in quotes) comes up empty.

There’s also this odd quote from one of the earlier AP items that appeared before the hostage killings were committed:

The pirates from Puntland in northern Somalia are not hardline Islamists and the fact the Adams carry Bibles is not likely to be a problem. Pirates in Puntland are known to spend their ransom spoils on alcohol, drugs and prostitutes.

Given that the text of the Bible is not exactly approving of “drugs and prostitutes,” that seems to be a pretty naive assumption. Sinners are often less than thrilled at the idea of being confronted about their sins.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


BizzyBlog Update: Comment at the Detroit Free Press’s coverage of reaction to the murder of Phyllis Macay (“Former Southfield resident, MSU grad is 1 of 4 killed by pirates”):

if killing hostages is their standard protocol now all pirates should be killed on sight no questions asked. They set the bar let them die from it.

As long as the identification is certain, I don’t see a strong counter-argument to that.


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