In April 2021, NewsGuard contacted SNA with questions about its standards and practices. In July 2021, Andres Peter, SNA’s editorial director, responded via email, the full text of which is below.
(Note: This letter was originally written in German. NewsGuard’s team translated it into English. The German version can be found here.)
Dear Ms. Richter.
You asked us to respond to your “inquiries” about your “analyses”.
We are very happy to do so, because – in contrast to your company – we work with an open mind and without shabby insinuations and defamation, as well as – again in full contrast to your company – strictly following journalistic standards.
Already the second sentence of your inquiry contains a misrepresentation, because your “ratings” are not “independent”, but saturated with arrogant Western double standards and presumptions, as your letter also documents very impressively.
Our analysis of your work has shown that your “ratings” are not intended to “strengthen trust in media,” as you claim, but to defame and discredit competitors in the information segment of the media who question and/or contradict your transatlantic-Western narrative, with the aim of defending the interpretive sovereignty of transatlantic narratives.
This is already evident from the fact that you, as a US-based company with various connections to the state apparatus of the United States of America, in particular its intelligence services, seriously presume to act as a judge of news on the Internet.
Why should we, why should users trust such a company that has direct connections to a state that has brazenly lied to the world community about alleged weapons of mass destruction, among other things, in order to get its hands on a justification for a war of aggression that violates international law?
Nothing, but really nothing, elevates you and your peculiar company to a position of such brazen self-empowerment.
Anyone who, like your company, for example, seriously considers a medium such as the German tabloid Bild, which has been known for decades as an inflammatory newspaper, to be a trustworthy medium that supposedly adheres to journalistic standards, even though Bild has received by far the most reprimands in the past annual reports of the German Press Council for failing to comply with minimum journalistic standards, is in our view already per se unsatisfactory.
Nevertheless, we want to answer your specific questions – for fundamental reasons – even though you would have found all the answers you are interested in through simple journalistic work, i.e. searching and perceptive reading, with the exception, of course, of those answers that do not interest you at all, because you are only interested in answers that confirm and approve your own viewpoint, but more on that later.
So we answer you anyway, because we know and suspect – not least because of your inquiry – that you are looking for a reason to classify us as an untrustworthy medium and we do not want to make it too easy for you.
you asked us:
“1) In my analysis of SNAnews.de, I could not find any information on how you deal with corrections. Is there an internal guideline? Could you give me some examples of published corrections of content?”
We answer as follows:
1.1 As for a normal medium, it is a self-evident basic standard for us to immediately make corrections that become necessary due to a changed factual situation or because of grammatical or orthographic requirements. The same applies to corrections that have to be made due to a court-ordered injunction and are marked accordingly by us.
1.2 If you had actually taken the trouble to analyze our journalistic information offer instead of just pretending to do so, you would, for example, have been able to find the correct information on April 22nd – i.e. the day on which you informed us of your “analyses” in your e-mail. You would have noticed that we had published an article under the so-called “Top5”: “Whoever misunderstands diplomatic protocol as event management produces a sofagate”, where directly under the headline, immediately recognizable to every user, was noted: “updated: 11:45 22.04.2021”.
1.3 Since we are extremely rarely requested by a court to issue an injunction and/or counterstatement, and even more rarely from a lawyer’s point of view, a correction for such a reason is required, I am unfortunately unable to assist you and your company with a current example of such a correction, because no such correction has been required since the relaunch of our site, on 08 December 2020. (For trademark reasons, we are prohibited from providing you with an example that was published on SNA’s predecessor site on January 02, 2019, and supplemented there with a rebuttal on February 07, 2019. The last two rebuttals before the one of 07 February 2019 that had to be published on the SNA predecessor site were dated 17 and 27 June 2016, related to an article dated 11 June 2016, last modified on 15 September 2019).
1.4 If you had actually taken the trouble to analyze our journalistic information offer instead of just pretending to do so, you would have noticed on April 22, i.e. on the day you informed us about your “analyses” and “assessments” with your email, that our page has a standard so-called footer. To access it, you have to use a technical tool called a mouse or an ordinary keyboard to move the corresponding bar on the right side of the screen down to the bottom of the page. There, the average examining or analyzing user will find various links:
1.4.1 Among others, an “About Us” link that contains contact addresses for our users to use to get in touch with us. We regularly receive correction notices and/or requests from our users or authors via these contact addresses.
1.4.3 Another link is “Feedback”, which includes access to a contact form, which is also used by our users for correction notices.
1.4.4. Finally, you will also find a “Privacy Request” link in the footer that leads to a contact form that explicitly states: “For requests that do not involve the protection of personal data, please use an email address from our contact list.”
you asked us:
“2) An important NewsGuard criterion is the disclosure of information about content creators, i.e., biographical information or contact information for authors. I did not find these on SNA. What is your policy for providing author information?”
Our response is as follows:
2.1 Our rule is that in every article that has an author name, there is an “All Materials” link in our CI guide color under the author name. It takes users to a page with all articles by that author arranged under biographical data. We encourage all authors to successively add this data.
2.2 As a matter of principle, we do not publish individualized telephone numbers or e-mail addresses. Our authors can be reached via the contact addresses already described.
2.3 For a company like yours, which claims that “the disclosure of information about the authors of content” is an “important criterion”, which is why you ask other media companies, such as ours, questions in an inquisitorial manner, we, for our part, miss important information about the employees of your company. For example, the credibility of your company, in particular the claim to moral superiority with which you presume to sit in judgment on other media providers as supposedly “independent” and to produce ratings that de facto amount to defaming unpopular market participants and thus committing virtual character assassination, is highly questionable in our view, when, for example, you list an advisory board member such as Richard Sambrook without disclosing that he is named in the documents of the intelligence-controlled British troll factory “Integrity Initiative” as an employee who has actively participated in international disinformation campaigns expressly intended to discredit and defame media companies such as ours, which is mendaciously presented as a “fight against disinformation.”
2.4. A company that lists on its advisory board, among others, former strategic communications staff of former U.S. presidents, a former secretary general of NATO, a former CIA director who has also been director of the NSA, that is, the intelligence agency that only thanks to the courage of whistleblower Edward Snowden could be convicted of having spied for years on hundreds of millions of blameless citizens around the world and snooped on their private lives and communications, to have spied on virtually all telephone and e-mail traffic around the world and even communications of supposedly friendly and allied foreign government leaders, to have deliberately manipulated social media, in short, a company that has the audacity to pass itself and such extremely biased disinformation warriors working with a clear transatlantic agenda off as “independent,” such a company should perhaps be a little more restrained in asking such presumptuous questions as yours.
3. You asked us:
“3) Another NewsGuard criterion is the clear separation of news and opinion. Although comments on SNA are usually published in a separate section, during our analysis we found that commentaries also appear unmarked on the front page (between news articles). In such cases, because individual articles are not marked as comments, it is not apparent that the comment is a comment. I am sending you some examples below. What is your rule for separating news from opinion?
3.1 Under your first example there is the tag “Commentary”, which you would have noticed if you had actually worked journalistically, i.e. if you had also read an article to the end. Incidentally, the commentary in question is in our “Comments” section, which you would have noticed if you had actually worked journalistically, i.e., if you had researched the section in question.
3.2 The same applies to your other two examples.
3.3 We consistently separate news and opinions, a journalistic virtue that we strongly recommend you to apply, since your last question documents that you do not separate news and opinions, but rather make your opinion or that of your company or its clients and/or sponsors the standard by which all others must be judged.
you asked us:
“4) In our analysis, we also found that some false or unsubstantiated claims were published in articles on SNAnews.de. I am sending you a few examples of these and would like to ask for your comments.
https://snanews.de/20210224/der-fall-nawalny–ein-ungeheuerliches-betrugsmanoever-1040247.html (Which denies Russia’s role in the poisonings of Alexei Nawalny and Sergei Skripal).
https://snanews.de/20210316/lawrow-die-krim-bleibt-fuer-immer-russische-region-1320716.html (Which presents the annexation of Crimea as a legal under international law).
https://snanews.de/20201222/nach-aufnahme-des-weisshelme-mitglieds-syrien-wirft-deutschland-unterstuetzung-von-terroristen-vor-253728.html (Which suggests that the White Helmets staged chemical attacks and blamed them on the Syrian regime.)”
We respond to you as follows:
4.1 In the first article you complain about, our author doubts, questions and refutes the narrative of the poison attack on Alexei Navalny and Sergei Skripal ordered by the Russian state, which has been propagated campaign-like by transatlantic networks in politics and the media until today without a single piece of evidence that can be proven in court. Such serious accusations, which to this day have not been verifiably proven, but are consistently based on unverifiable Western intelligence sources, which lack even a minimum of logic, which quite openly reveal that there are actually other motives and goals behind these accusations, such defamations can only be denied. We understand that you and your company do not like this, but unfortunately we cannot change it. You will have to learn to live with the fact that your mendacious narratives are not the navel of the world.
4.2 In the second article you criticize, the Russian foreign minister expresses a position on international law that is also shared by other renowned experts on international law, including non-Russian experts, and is therefore not a solitary opinion or misrepresentation, as you have untruthfully claimed. We understand that you and your company do not like this, but unfortunately we cannot change it. You will have to learn to live with the fact that your mendacious narratives are not the navel of the world.
4.3 In the third article they criticize, statements are made that are based on knowledge and summary appraisal of proven facts. For example:
4.3.1. that world-renowned and award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh proved in 2017 that the Turkish government staged a poison gas attack in 2013 and blamed it on the legitimate government in Damascus under international law,
4.3.2. that the Swedish medical association SWEDHR exposed videos of the “White Helmets” as fakes, which even still contained audible “stage directions”,
4.3.3. that the “White Helmets” staged an alleged poison gas attack by the Syrian state in Douma, which was exposed by the allegedly “rescued” boy and his father,
4.3.4. that the renowned U.S. conservative magazine “The National Interest” proved that Western media massively obstructed and prevented the reporting of secret OPCW documents proving that the OPCW deliberately launched into the public domain an account described by the “White Helmets” about an alleged poison gas attack in Douma, although members of its investigative team expressed considerable doubts about the White Helmets’ accounts,
4.3.5. that a staff member of the renowned U.S. magazine “Newsweek” was demonstrably pressured by management not to report on the OPCW doubts about the “White Helmets” version, but to parrot the narrative, still propagated today by most Western media, that the Syrian government is using poison gas against its own population,
4.3.6. that the “White Helmets” have a conspicuously similar financing structure and mode of operation known from alleged and supposedly independent NGOs, which – as evidenced by the news magazine “Spiegel”, among others – organize “revolutions” all over the world with Western, also financial support, named after colors and flowers and declared as supposedly spontaneous popular uprisings, and there, as in the case of the “White Helmets”, the USAID and the British Foreign Office repeatedly appear as the most important donors, alongside Saudi Arabia, France and other Western states, who are pursuing a clear regime-change agenda in Syria and are furious that this goal has been frustrated for them by the Russian military deployment (the only military deployment by a foreign power on Syrian territory that is legitimate under international law) and therefore want to take revenge,
4.3.7. that the “White Helmets” were founded by James Gustaf Edward Le Mesurier, a former British military intelligence officer in Abu Dhabi, who already attracted attention as an intelligence agent in Kosovo,
4.3.8. that former British chemical weapons officer Jonathan Shaw was interviewed on British television in 2018 about alleged chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, which is legitimate under international law, on its own people, particularly as portrayed in Western media with reference to “White Helmets,” and the journalist summarily stopped the interview because it did not produce the indictment she wanted in the direction of Damascus, but the opposite,
4.3.9. that it was proven in various media with eyewitness reports and photos that the narrative of the allegedly completely destroyed city of Aleppo propagated by the “White Helmets” in Western media is a fake of the “White Helmets”, because the western part of Aleppo was and is completely intact and even large parts of the fiercely fought and destroyed eastern part of Aleppo were quite functional, that Western media had nevertheless uncritically adopted the hate-filled propaganda of the U.S.-financed “White Helmets,” that in 2017 the renowned Swedish conflict researcher Jan Oberg proved, among other things with photos and eyewitness accounts, that Western reporting on Aleppo had been false and/or grossly misleading, that Western governments and media systematically concealed or tried to gloss over the West’s collaboration with Islamist terrorists for the regime-change agenda, that even the UN Special Envoy for Syria in 2016 accused the al-Nusra Front terrorists, portrayed by the West as “freedom fighters,” of holding the civilian population in eastern Aleppo hostage,
4.3.10. that the first article of the allegedly independent platform “Bellingcat” is an article about the alleged responsibility of the Syrian government for poison gas operations and that this article, according to a published invoice, turned out to be a commissioned work of the already mentioned intelligence-controlled Western troll factory “Integrity Initiative”, thus cannot be called independent.
We understand that you and your company do not like all this, but unfortunately we cannot change it. You will have to learn to live with the fact that your mendacious narratives are not the navel of the world.
We take the liberty of informing our readers about your request and about our answers, also to prevent the case that you “find” that our statement is “not appropriate” and therefore do not reproduce it or reproduce it in a distorted way.
Of course, we wish you no success with your disinformation and defamation project.