Oct 26 2000

AP Should Come Clean About Reporter’s Conflicts Following Resignation

The Associated Press‘ long-time Bolivia correspondent, Peter McFarren, will resign amidst revelations of widespread conflicts of interest, an AP spokesperson has told FAIR.

The resignation comes in the wake of an expose published by the internet-based Narco News Bulletin that pointed to a variety of conflicts involving McFarren. Most recently, McFarren personally lobbied the Bolivian legislature on September 14 on behalf of a water project for the Bolivian Hydro-Resources Corporation. Some of the profits from the $78 million project would go to a foundation created and presided over by McFarren.

Narco News calls McFarren “the gatekeeper of information from Bolivia to the English speaking world,” and charges the AP writer “is so deeply in the tank with an interlocking set of governmental and business interests in Bolivia, that his coverage…cannot possibly be considered fair or impartial.”

The project McFarren promoted would privatize and divert water from Bolivia to international mining interests in Chile. This water privatization is one of the biggest stories in Bolivia, and is a central issue in widespread protests there that have been escalating since last April.

McFarren, who has been the AP‘s Bolivian correspondent since 1983,acknowledged his lobbying activities to Narco News, but denied they constitute a conflict of interest, claiming he works for the corporate project “pro bono.” McFarren also told Narco News that he’d informed his supervisor, AP Chilean correspondent Eduardo Gallardo, of his lobbying efforts.

When FAIR contacted the AP in New York on October 20 for comment, AP spokesperson Jack Stokes said, “I can only tell you that Peter McFarren will resign from the AP effective November 1.” Stokes declined to say if the reported conflicts played a role in McFarren’s resignation. When asked if AP intended to investigate the conflicts and inform its readers and subscribing media outlets of the results, Stokes replied, “We usually don’t do that.”

But AP‘s own Code of Ethics, as written by the Associated Press Managing Editors association, advises subscribing media outlets to “report matters regarding itself or its personnel with the same vigor and candor as it would other institutions or individuals.”

According to FAIR’s program director Janine Jackson, “As a player in Bolivian politics, Peter McFarren should have been a subject of Associated Press reports from Bolivia, not AP‘s correspondent on the scene. AP owes it to its readers and subscribers to come clean and issue a report on the conflicts, and to explain how an individual with such clear conflicts was allowed to remain on the beat.”

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, whom FAIR alerted to the story,wrote about the controversy on October 24. The same day, AP‘s Jack Stokes called FAIR to say that the wire service is working on a story about Peter McFarren.

ACTION: Contact the Associated Press and tell them you look forward toreading a story which fully reports on Peter McFarren’s conflicts, and howthey impacted AP‘s dispatches from Bolivia. Encourage the wire service toexamine how such conflicts could have gone unnoticed.

CONTACT: You can reach the AP at the following addresses:



JCeppos@knightRidder.com (Jerry Ceppos is an officer of the Associated Press Managing Editors group.)

As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously ifyou maintain a polite tone. Please cc fair@fair.org with yourcorrespondence.

For further information you can read the entire Narco News Bulletin expose at: http://www.narconews.com