On 16 May 2012 The Times published a piece claiming that information found in an embassy cable released by WikiLeaks directly led to the execution of Majid Jamli Fashi, an Iranian kickboxer. Within hours, media outlets around the world picked up the article and the story went viral.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Once the Times published, the Daily Mail picked it up, Rupert’s The Australian syndicated it, and then the Drudge got it, skyrocketing comments on Twitter.
The WikiLeaks twitter feed reacted swiftly and mercilessly. Spread over a succession of tweets:
“Murdoch’s Times tries to smear WikiLeaks for Iranian hanging. Media morons run with it without fact checking. The absolute contempt for the readers and the truth shows why there must be urgent reform. Let us consider the Iranian smear. We have: Wrong guy. This isn’t the guy in the cable. Wrong publication. Spiegel, not WL, selected the cable, but anyway, it was redacted. Wrong country. Israel isn’t even mentioned in the cable. In fact there’s no connection whatsoever with the story other than it mentions martial arts. And yet dozens of ‘press’ outlets are running with it. Idiots! Wrong timeline. The guy (that the cable, as far as can be determined, has nothing to do with) was sentenced last August.”
What seems to have happened is Rupert’s journalist Martin Fletcher decided to research the background to the Fashi case, found a transplanted Alabama professor in Birmingham (Scott Lucas) who’d been following it, read a few of his articles from last year on the subject, and contacted him. Rupert’s been keen to smear WikiLeaks for years, having failed at least twice before.