Al Jazeera America has been forced to apologise to one of its reporters after it said a story about US drone strikes in Pakistan was based on “fake news”.
Al Jazeera is now publishing an apology on its website and will be conducting a “full investigation” into what it says was a “serious error” on its part.
The apology comes in response to an article by reporter John Cantle in which he reported that the US was “not on the right path to democratic rule”.
“This story is based on an unreliable and incorrect account, not sourced from credible sources,” the organisation wrote on its Facebook page.
“We sincerely apologise for this error.”
The story Cantle published said that in a drone strike in Pakistan, a US drone struck a house belonging to the Pakistani Taliban, killing “two men and two women”.
Cantle’s article was widely shared on social media and in a tweet was picked up by other news outlets, including The Guardian, where it was picked as a major story.
The piece is now under review.
The US has not yet responded to Cantle.
Al Jazeera was not the first news organisation to report on the strike.
The BBC also reported on the attack on its news website, with a piece by journalist David Allen Green headlined: “US drone strikes kill at least 16 in Pakistan” that said: “The US has claimed that a drone attack killed 16 Pakistani Taliban fighters, including several women and children.
The report has now been disputed by Pakistani officials, who say that the group was not present in the targeted area.”
The US is currently conducting air strikes against Taliban targets in Pakistan in an attempt to halt the advance of the militant group.
However, Pakistan has accused the US of using drones to target “terrorists” as part of a wider military campaign in the country.
The Pentagon has denied the claim.
Cantle also wrote a second article on Tuesday that cited unnamed Pakistani officials as saying that the drone strike killed “a large number of Taliban fighters” in a strike that hit “a compound where several of the alleged terrorists were believed to be hiding”.
Cantlie told Al Jazeera that he had approached Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, for permission to report the story.
“I approached them to ask them to tell me what the facts are,” Cantle said.
This story was not sourced. “
Then, I received a message from ISI saying that, yes, I can report this, because they are investigating this story.”
This story was not sourced.
Cantlie has not spoken to his source, although the US State Department said it would look into Cantle if it learned of any inaccuracies.
Aljazeera’s Cantlie said he was “sickened” at what he believed was a cover-up by the US government.
“What I saw as a very serious error,” Cantlie added.
“In fact, I think it’s one of the biggest cover-ups I’ve ever seen.
The fact that the Pakistani government and the US state department are hiding this is appalling.”
The BBC has also been criticised by several news organisations for not taking the story seriously enough, with some reporting that it “appeared to have been invented” and others reporting that Cantle had misrepresented the facts.
AlJazeera has also apologised to Cantlie, but has yet to take down the article.