At the end of last week I published a statement from Dale Gavlak, distancing herself from the the Mint Press article "Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack", published by Mint Press with Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh on the byline.
Mint Press News incorrectly used my byline for an article it published on August 29, 2013 alleging chemical weapons usage by Syrian rebels. Despite my repeated requests, made directly and through legal counsel, they have not been willing to issue a retraction stating that I was not the author. Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author of the Mint Press News piece. To date, Mint Press News has refused to act professionally or honestly in regards to disclosing the actual authorship and sources for this story.
I did not travel to Syria, have any discussions with Syrian rebels, or do any other reporting on which the article is based. The article is not based on my personal observations and should not be given credence based on my journalistic reputation. Also, it is false and misleading to attribute comments made in the story as if they were my own statements.
After that statement was issued Sharmine Narwani claimed she had been sent the following email by Dale Gavlak
Basically I helped Yahya Ababneh, who traveled to Gouta, to write what he saw and heard. He mainly met with rebels, of course, the father of one of the rebels killed and doctors treating victims in the area. He has traveled to Syria numerous times. As you know Mint Press News is more of an advocacy journalism site and it seems to be the most likely to publish such a piece.This, and other queries, resulted in Dale Gavlak publishing another statement based on a statement from her lawyers
Dale Gavlak has sought to make a public statement from the beginning of this incident and now is able to do so.Mint Press responded by publishing the following statement
Email correspondence between Ms. Gavlak and Mint Press News that began on August 29 and ended on September 2 clearly show that from the beginning Ms. Gavlak identified the author of the story as Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian journalist. She also made clear that only his name should appear on the byline and the story was submitted only in his name. She served as an editor of Ababneh’s material in English as he normally writes in Arabic. She did not travel to Syria and could not corroborate his account.
Dale Gavlak specifically stated in an email dated August 29 "Pls find the Syria story I mentioned uploaded on Google Docs. This should go under Yahya Ababneh's byline. I helped him write up his story but he should get all the credit for this."
Ms. Gavlak supplied the requested bio information on Mr. Ababneh later that day and had further communications with Mint Press News’ Mnar Muhawesh about the author's background. There was no communication by Mint Press News to Ms. Gavlak that it intended to use her byline. Ms. Muhawesh took this action unilaterally and without Ms. Gavlak's permission.
After seeing that her name was attached to the article, Dale Gavlak demanded her name be removed. However, Ms. Muhawesh stated: "We will not be removing your name from the byline as this is an existential issue for MintPress and an issue of credibility as this will appear as though we are lying."
Mint Press News rejected further demands by Dale Gavlak and her legal counsel to have her name removed. Her public statement explains her position.
By Mnar Muhawesh, executive director and editor at large for MintPress News
Thank you for reaching out to me in regards to statements made by Dale Gavlak alleging MintPress for incorrectly attributing our exclusive report titled: “Syrians in Goutha claim Saudi-supplied rebels behind chemical attacks.”Gavlak pitched this story to MintPress on August 28th and informed her editors and myself that her colleague Yahya Ababneh was on the ground in Syria. She said Ababneh conducted interviews with rebels, their family members, Ghouta residents and doctors that informed him through various interviews that the Saudis had supplied the rebels with chemical weapons and that rebel fighters handled the weapons improperly setting off the explosions.
When Yahya had returned and shared the information with her, she stated that she confirmed with several colleagues and Jordanian government officials that the Saudis have been supplying rebels with chemical weapons, but as her email states, she says they refused to go on the record.
Gavlak wrote the article in it’s entirety as well as conducted the research. She filed her article on August 29th and was published on the same day.
Dale is under mounting pressure for writing this article by third parties. She notified MintPress editors and myself on August 30th and 31st via email and phone call, that third parties were placing immense amounts of pressure on her over the article and were threatening to end her career over it. She went on to tell us that she believes this third party was under pressure from the head of the Saudi Intelligence Prince Bandar himself, who is alleged in the article of supplying the rebels with chemical weapons.
On August 30th, Dale asked MintPress to remove her name completely from the byline because she stated that her career and reputation was at risk. She continued to say that these third parties were demanding her to disassociate herself from the article or these parties would end her career.
On August 31st, I notified Dale through email that I would add a clarification that she was the writer and researcher for the article and that Yahya was the reporter on the ground, but did let Gavlak know that we would not remove her name as this would violate the ethics of journalism.
We are aware of the tremendous pressure that Dale and some of our other journalists are facing as a result of this story, and we are under the same pressure as a result to discredit the story. We are unwilling to succumb to those pressures for MintPress holds itself to the highest journalistic ethics and reporting standards.
Yahya has recently notified me that the Saudi embassy contacted him and threatened to end his career if he did a follow up story on who carried out the most recent chemical weapons attack and demanded that he stop doing media interviews in regards to the subject.
We hold Dale Gavlak in the highest esteem and sympathize with her for the pressure she is receiving, but removing her name from the story would not be honest journalism and therefore, as stated before, we are not willing to remove her name from the article.
We are prepared and may release all emails and communications made between MintPress and Dale Gavlak, and even Yahya to provide further evidence of what was provided to you in this statement.Elsewhere, Brian Whitaker published the article, Yahya Ababneh exposed, where he identified another name Yahya Ababneh was posting online with, Yan Barakat, and a very interesting comment posted by him on a Peter Hitchens column before the Mint Press article was submitted, highlighting one key passage about Yahya's/Yan's trip that was left out of the Mint Press article
The war is coming soon. Jordan was threatened by the Syrian government this time.
Who used the chemical weapons?
The answer is neither the Syrian regime, nor the rebels. This is the game of Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi intelligence chief. He gave these weapons to the rebels via tunnels but they did not have enough information about them. Almost all of the rebels handling the weapons were killed because they used them incorrectly.
Many people inside the village were really angry with Jabhat Al Nazrah (an Al Qaeda associate in Syria).
The Assad regime so far has not let anyone from the UN visit the village to investigate. I will not be surprised if the Assad regime will use this case to support its situation in the eyes of Russia and Iran. The first country who suggested to fight Assad was France and Saudi Arabia were ready to pay for the weapons.
The Assad regime will get his army ready with many Iranian soldiers. Some old men arrived in Damascus from Russia and one of them became friends with me. He told me that they have evidence that it was the rebels who used the weapons.
The US people will pay the price again.
No one cares about the children who were killed in this way. The people are really concerned about who used the chemical weapons in Syria. If in these days it is believed that Assad used chemical weapons, then there will be a devastating war including the USA, France, Britain and Arab countries. After some years when they have paid the price to kill the Syrian people, they will say that they are sorry but it was actually Al Qaeda who deployed the weapons. Already they know that this is the game of Bandar bin Sultan.Laura Rozen spoke to Dale Gavlak about this
Spoke briefly with Dale Gavlak. She said she knows Yahya Ababneh under that name thru mutual friends, thought he uses Yan Barakat for FB 1/2
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) September 22, 2013
Gavlak told me she was not aware of Yan Barakat's comments citing Russian sources or that he had a Russia VK page http://t.co/oZZCZxnZO2
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) September 22, 2013
And seems to have a Russian VKontakte page that says he was born in St. Petersburg http://t.co/AQkNczvYJ0 @daoudkuttab
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) September 22, 2013
Yahya Ababneh Linkedin profile was also deleted over the weekend, with a copy in Google Cache showing a list of organisations he claims to have worked for
2007 – Present (6 years)
Includes assignments in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Libya for clients such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Amman Net, and other publicationsBefore Yahya Ababneh pseudonym of Yan Barakat was known, Al Jazeera English journalists Anita McNaught Tweeted that
@snarwani @Brown_Moses #Syria Mint Press journalist Yahya Ababneh claims to work for Al Jazeera. But Al Jaz web has no record of him.
— Anita McNaught (@anitamcnaught) September 21, 2013