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February 21, 2005

The ghost of Jason Blair

From Lanka Business Online:

"So far, nine couples have claimed him as their own son," the New York Times said in a story headlined: "For Tsunami Orphan, No Name but Many Parents."

But, baby 81's real burden was having too many journalists of the type of Jason Blair, the New York Times reporter who made up sensational stories and eventually was forced out of his job in 2003.

If there is a Pulitzer award for embellishing, exaggerating, and outright lying and misleading in print, the coverage of "Baby 81" would merit top billing.

District judge, M.P. Moahaidein, on Wednesday (Feb 16) made it clear that there never, repeat never, were nine couples claiming the child as their own and only Junita and Murugpillai Jeyarajah had said they were the parents.

So how did the "Baby 81" make international headlines.

It had all the ingredients of a fascinating story. A "miracle" survivor. Nine parents fighting over him. Mothers threatening suicide. DNA tests. Court drama.

Apparently one of those “caring and compassionate” social services types fueled the fire:

The media was helped by professor Harendra de Silva, the head of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), who on February 2 added his weight to keeping the "Baby 81" story alive, although he now blames the press.

The professor was the first to go as far as to suggest that the "real parents may be dead" even though the probation and child care officer responsible for Kalmunai reported that the Jeyarajahs were indeed the biological parents.

Asked what was in the best interest of the child, de Silva said the baby should be kept in hospital (and away from the family of Jeyarajahs) pending DNA tests.

However, the NCPA at the same time was allowing others who were caring for tsunami orphans to hold onto those children for six months.

Although de Silva is now blaming the media for the "Baby 81" fiasco, he himself had fuelled and prolonged the agony of the real parents despite UNICEF's Geoffrey Keele publicly saying there was sufficient evidence locally to prove that the couple indeed were the parents.

The only "help" de Silva offered was to carry out free genetic finger printing, but that too only if someone else was willing to pay the transport cost of brining "Baby 81" to Colombo.

Interestingly enough the NYT has no recent stories involving “Baby 81”. Hmmmm.

Hat tip: Outside the Web, WizBang

Michelle Malkin has a round up of questionable stories by NYT's reporter Somini Sengupta.

Posted by Jack Lewis at February 21, 2005 09:39 AM

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