Mohamed Sudam, a Reuters reporter in the strife-torn country of Yemen, has a second job as a translator. For Ali Abdullah Saleh, the nation's embattled president. And Reuters was cool with that.
According to the New York Times, Sudam "work[ed] closely with the president even as he filed regular bylined reports for the news agency on the increasingly violent uprising against Mr. Saleh's three decades of authoritarian rule." His double-game came to light last month after Sudam was kidnapped by anti-government forces at a checkpoint. Yemeni journalist groups demanded his release, but the rebel leader protested that Sudam wasn't detained as a reporter—they took him because he worked for Saleh. He was later released in a prisoner swap.
Amazingly, Reuters' response wasn't to apologize or profess ignorance of the arrangement. Instead, it doubled down, insisting in an Arabic-language statment that Sudam's employment by the president of the nation whose emerging civil war he was also covering is consistent with its standards:
We consider that the work of Mohammed Sudam as a part-time reporter rises to the international standards that we adhere to around the world.
So to all you Reuters reporters around the globe: Feel free to seek work with your local governments—PR, translation, strategic advice—if you need extra scratch.
UPDATE: In a statement, Reuters defends Sudam's reporting as "fair and accurate," and says it was aware of his role as a translator for Saleh. But now that it has "reviewed the matter," it has come to the conclusion that it's not a good idea to hire the employees of brutal regimes as reporters. Glad they figured that one out.
Sudam's work as a Reuters stringer over the course of many years has been fair and accurate. When he became a translator for the president, he disclosed his role to Reuters. On reviewing the matter, however, we believe it's not appropriate to use a stringer who is also working for the government. He is no longer reporting for us from Yemen.
[Image via AP]