Economist apologises for libelling Rachid Ghannouchi

The Economist recently published an article entitled “Now is the time” on the subject of Tunisia. In that article, they mentioned Rashid Al-Ghannushi, the leader of Ḥizb al‐Nahḍah, the Tunisian Renaissance Party. Al-Ghannushi is a well-known Islamic intellectual, so it was somewhat surprising to see The Economist portray him as a fundamentalist; but more outrageously, the article claimed (incorrectly) that Al-Ghannushi threatened to hang a prominent Tunisian feminist!

When they were notified of this horrendous error, the editors of The Economist had the decency to issue a public apology, saying:

An apology to Rachid Ghannouchi

IN OUR briefing last week on women and the Arab awakening (“Now is the time“), we said that Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s Nahda party, opposes the country’s liberal code of individual rights, the Code of Personal Status, and its prohibition of polygamy. We also said that he has threatened to hang a prominent Tunisian feminist, Raja bin Salama, in Basij Square in Tunis, because she has called for the country’s new laws to be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We accept that neither of these statements is true: Mr Ghannouchi has expressly said that he accepts the Code of Personal Status; and he never threatened to hang Ms bin Salama. We apologise to him unreservedly.

Did I say you’re a convicted sex offender and that you like to rape little kids? My bad. Sorry about that.

Yes, it’s true that everyone makes mistakes, but don’t you think you should be careful before you accuse someone of wanting to hang a woman? It also indicates that the writer did not know much about Tunisian politics and religious discourse, which begs the question: why does Anglo-American media use “Middle East experts” who don’t know even the basics about the topic?

LoonWatch, 27 October 2011