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Monday, December 10, 2007

WHO punishes Times for embargo breach

The World Health Organization has suspended New York Times reporters' privileges to access embargoed media releases for two weeks after the newspaper mistakenly published a short note on an embargoed WHO release in late November.

The offending story, "," reads in full:

Improved routine immunization programs and huge national drives to give children a second dose of the inexpensive measles vaccine have contributed to a stunning 91 percent reduction in measles mortality across Africa, with deaths plunging to 36,000 last year from 396,000 in 2000, the World Health Organization and Unicef reported. Globally in that period, measles deaths fell 68 percent, to 242,000.
In response, the WHO sent out the following email to notify media of the Times' punishment:
Note for the Media WHO/36

30 November 2007

EMBARGO BREACH SANCTIONS

Please note that the New York Times has been suspended from the World Health Organization media distribution list for a period of two weeks, effective immediately, after breaking the embargo yesterday on a story from WHO and other partners.

The story in question, "Sharp drop in deaths from measles reported," appeared on the New York Times website after the reporter participated in an embargoed telebriefing.

After speaking to the reporter and assessing the circumstances surrounding the breach, WHO has decided that a two-week exclusion from our email list is a proportionate sanction. WHO communications staff have been asked not to brief any New York Times reporters during this period on any stories that are scheduled to be released through the WHO email distribution list.

WHO takes embargoes very seriously. Breaches are a violation of this code of honour among journalists and between reporters and their sources. The Organization will determine appropriate sanctions on a case-by-case basis.
Slate magazine's media critic, Jack Shafer, as "silly" and petty.

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