In the process of reporting the article “Dr. Sasa Visits a Bomb-Making Class”, a spokesperson for Dr. Sasa, Minister of International Cooperation for the National Unity Government of Myanmar, accused the author Aye Min Thant and New Naratif of not operating in good faith, disregarding journalistic ethics and putting lives at risk.
Dr. Sasa’s spokesperson requested to review the draft before publication “for safety concerns and any possible breaches of POFMA”, referring to Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, under which both New Naratif and our managing director, PJ Thum, have been hit with multiple correction directives from the Singapore government.
New Naratif takes concerns about the security of its staff, contributors and sources seriously. In the interest of transparency, we are responding to the NUG’s demands and accusations here. Each of the following statements is directly quoted from an email sent by Dr. Sasa’s spokesperson to New Naratif on 17 August 2021:
“Do not use Mr. LeQuieu’s name. If you choose to do so, understand that you will be actively putting him in danger for no benefit to Myanmar or its people as doxing him has no value. Perhaps more importantly, you will be putting people inside Myanmar in grave danger because connections to them via Mr. LeQuieu can and will be made. These people will then be arrested, tortured and killed. Your ethical responsibility as a journalist is to not directly put people in danger.”
- New Naratif is not “doxing” Marc LeQuieu. Our article presents the results of an investigation into the relationship between a public figure and a US citizen advocating violence inside Myanmar.
- No journalist or media organisation can fully guarantee the safety of their sources after publication. However, New Naratif has omitted identifying information for all sources located inside Myanmar and published their comments in recognition of their agency to speak on the record if and when they choose.
- New Naratif cannot be held responsible for any potential security risk resulting from an association with Marc LeQuieu or armed groups in Myanmar. We are not the only media organisation reporting on armed groups and violence in Myanmar.
“Give Mr. LeQuieu the right of response. We have heard you do not plan to give him an opportunity to respond. Perhaps this is because you know he will explain how the meeting was made under false pretenses, and how your reporter never obtained consent from him in any form whatsoever. He has documentation of this and has also informed Aye Min Thant that any perceived consent on her part should be considered withdrawn and plans to pursue a defamation lawsuit should she proceed to dox him. However, the full story should come from him.”
- New Naratif conducted two on-the-record interviews with Marc LeQuieu, one by phone and one via email.
- Marc LeQuieu requested that his phone interview with New Naratif be taken off the record retroactively. New Naratif has no obligation to honour such a request, especially for the subject of an investigative article.
- In the course of reporting this article, both Dr. Sasa and Marc LeQuieu were contacted with follow-up questions and given more than a week to respond.
- New Naratif believes explicit or informed consent should be obtained from vulnerable sources at the start of interviews. Vulnerable sources include people who would be at risk of physical harm, or unjust arrest, economic hardship or termination of employment.
- Aye Min Thant received verbal explicit consent from three webinar participants who are quoted anonymously in this article. As part of our due diligence, New Naratif independently verified that verbal explicit consent was obtained for two of the three sources.
- The ethics of if and when to seek explicit consent from non-vulnerable sources may be debated by journalists and media organisations. New Naratif would not seek explicit consent from public figures or the subjects of investigations.
- Any assertion that Aye Min Thant hid the fact that they are a journalist from Marc LeQuieu or conducted an interview with him under “false pretenses” is false.
“Do not mention the meetings. Everyone who took part was apprised that the meetings were off-the-record and completely private.”
- Communication becomes off-the-record when all parties involved agree that it will not be published or shared with anyone outside the agreement, unless that information is confirmed by a separate, on-the-record source.
- Aye Min Thant received access to Marc LeQuieu’s webinars from multiple sources, all of whom were aware that Aye Min Thant is a journalist. Aye Min Thant did not agree to keep the content of these webinars off the record, and as such, they are fit to publish.
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