Rory Carroll and his editors distort then partially correct interview with Rafael Correa

The headline to this Rory Carroll article in the Guardian originally read:

Rafael Correa not considering Snowden asylum: helping him was a ‘mistake’ Ecuador’s president reveals travel pass was granted ‘without authorisation’ and says whistleblower is now Russia’s problem

I learned from Chris Elliott, the Readers’ editor, that the headline was changed in response to complaints from Rafael Correa to read:

Ecuador says it blundered over Snowden travel document

Ecuador’s president reveals the whistleblower was granted a temporary travel card at 4am ‘without authorisation or validity’

The Guardian appended a note to the bottom of the article that explained:

The headline on this article was changed on 3 July 2013 to give a more accurate reflection of the substance of the interview with president Correa.

Rory Carroll would probably not have been responsible for the headline, but nobody familiar with his track record should trust him to write up the interview, or anything, honestly, especially after he was caught badly distorting an interview Chomsky granted him about Venezuela. I asked Chris Elliott if he would publish the transcript of Carroll’s interview with Correa, but Elliott said the Ecuadorians only complained about the headline. Rafael Correa said, via Twitter, that he “happily” recorded the interview.  It has just been made available online. The interview is in Spanish which I speak.

Correa went out of his way in the interview to clarify that Ecuador was totally open to processing (ie. formally evaluating) an asylum request if Snowden arrives on Ecuadorian soil. The nearest Ecaudorian embassy to Snowden would be Ecuadorian soil.  You would never learn from the text of Carroll’s article (not just the orignal headline which was indeed outrageously dishonest and far worse than the article) about the considerable effort Correa made to distinguish between carefully evaluating an asylum request and taking responsibility for getting Snowden to Ecuadorian soil.

Carroll and his editors are perfectly entitled to say that they dismiss the importance of the distinction, to conclude that Correa is just making excuses for backing down. I think that interpreattion is very foolish as I’ll explain below, but there is no excuse for neglecting to report the effort that Correa made in the interview to explain that distinction.

Correa explained that, as with Julian Assange, processing (i.e formally considering) Snowden’s request would involve asking questions of other governments. Correa specifically recalled that in Assange’s case Sweden, the UK and USA were asked questions by Ecuador to make sure asylum was granted on solid legal and humanitarian grounds. 

Correa also stated that if Snowden had divulged secrets for personal gain and for obviously illegitimate reasons then Ecuador would say they have no interest in even receiving his asylum request. Correa was explicitly clear that he believed Snowden had divulged abuses against the human rights of people in the USA and against the rights of foreign governments. Correa explained that processing an asylum request would require assessing the personal risk Snowden faces in the USA. Hence the process Correa referred to when he compared Assange’s request with Snowden’s. 

I would add that despite being so rigorous and thorough in Assange’s case, Ecuador’s embassy in London was secretly threatened with a raid by the UK. Ecuador blew the whistle on that threat and the UK backed off.  With the thuggish treatment Evo Morales just received, we’ve just seen how wise Ecuador is to avoid taking responsibility for moving people around within very lawless EU states.

The Guardian editors also wrote an editorial on July 2 (“Edward Snowden: A Whistleblower not a spy”) which made the same claim as the erroneous headline:

 “Over the weekend, Ecuador aborted the idea that he might find sanctuary in Quito”

I wrote to the Guardian to say that this was false. Chris Elliot responded to my letter arguing that Ecuador had “in a de facto way” rejected Snowden’s asylum request.   I replied that my letter explains why I strongly disagreed with his interpretation and also that

Your readers should be able to make up their own minds whether or not your interpretation is correct. To report your interpretation as fact will mislead many who do not research the matter further.”

Elliott replied that “with the publication of your letter they will be able to make up their own minds about your interpretation”.

I asked that the letter be published in full or not at all. To its credit, the Guardian did just that. The other letters it ran along with mine also made very good points regarding Snowden’s appeal for asylum.

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