“There will be a review into the way we verify photos downloaded from Facebook.”
That is what editor-in-chief of The Age, an Australian paper, promised when it became clear that along with the Sydney Morning Herald they both printed Thursday’s front pages with the photo of an innocent man whom they presented as the perpetrator behind the 2014 Endeavour Hills incident.
“Sending a lynch mob to anybody’s address is pretty bad,” of course, regardless of whether it is the “right” or the “wrong” address. It is still the more frustrating that two papers with considerable readership mistook an innocent man for a violent person who attempted to kill two policemen with a knife. Even worse, the media, somehow unable to think reasonably, keeps referreing to said violent person, the one who actually stabbed two policemen and was shot eventually, as a “terror suspect.” How they cannot tell the difference between a suspect and a dead assailant who, once shot dead, was found to be in possession of an Islamic State flag, is as puzzling as the question of how they end up printing the wrong photo from Facebook to have something to put on their front pages.
But things get worse than this.
The innocent man happens to be a certain Abu Bakar Alam, no other than the 19-year old grandson of Hakim Taniwal, the former governor of first Khost and then Paktia province in Afghanistan (he was a government minister, as Minister of Mines, in between his two stints as governor). Hakim Taniwal was a brave Afghan-Australian who returned to his country after 2001 to take a position of responsibility there and was killed along with a nephew in 2006 by a teenage suicide bomber. Even his funeral was bombed by Islamist insurgents. You can read about him here, here and here.
Abu Bakar Alam is thus exactly the kind of guy from the kind of family whom you are not interested in alienating when a considerable part of the other person’s – the dead assailant’s – community reacts to the shooting of a person who stabbed two police officers in this way.