Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Guardian, a newspaper that also needs a good translator

The Guardian seems to have misunderstood the official statement issued by Mr. Pinto Monteiro, the head of Public Prosecutor's Office (“Procuradoria-Geral da República – PGR). The newspaper quotes part of the statement, but something has been lost in translation. According to the Guardian, that statement “said the report would be considered carefully, adding: 'The prosecutor's office will proceed with the global analysis and evaluation of the whole case (which contains dozens of files) in order to determine whether or not the necessary and sufficient conditions have been met allowing for the case's closure”.

What is missing, here? Let's take a look at a more precise translation of the same paragraph, from BBC: "Public prosecutors will proceed to the overall analysis to determine whether or not other action is necessary or whether the conditions are sufficient to rule that the investigation be closed and a final ruling made.” Is this just incompetence?


Anonymous said...

Fair point. Roy Greenslade's Guardian Army have been using the coverage of the Madeleine case as a cause célèbre for their routine heckling of the tabloid/gutter press for months. But there are two sides here: top-drawer publications like The Guardian need the McCanns to be innocent to support their case against the 'vitriolic' and cavalier gutter press who'll stop at nothing to get a story. And on the other side we have people desperate to prove the McCanns guilty for reasons best known to themselves. Both seem adequately prepared to twist statements to support each view. A shift of emphasis, a shift of weight, an omission - and one statement can take on various meanings. But we are all gulity of doing it from time to time. Some more than others. My take is that the Public Prosecutor does not reveal anything at all about the direction of the case. It seems his statement is very clear: the files will be assessed and a decision will be made on how (or if) to proceed. What do you want him to do? Wink as he says it?

Cláudia said...

'Is that just incompetence'? Mmmm, maybe. I smell a pink rat along the way.

guerra said...

Whether these misinterpretations are on purpose or not, these incidents like many in the past point out the need for a PJ spokesperson. A spokesperson who is fluent in English and possibly other languages. This person would dismiss all the nonsense that has been proclaimed by the media. The couple and the media know that the police don't have such a person and therefore this emboldens them to make false claims.

Cláudia said...

Guerra, I do agree with what you say to a certain point. The PJ does need a spokesperson and the relationship with the media should and has to be improved sooner or later. I do not however think that that spokesperson should be used to contradict the idiocies of the media, especially the gutter press. If that happened, the poor spokesperson would have to make statements every 2 minutes and would have to be on call 24/7. :-)

Anonymous said...

People will twist or massage statements whether a PJ spokesman exists or not. It's quite an easy task for a writer or an editor. It's sometimes as simple as taking a statement out of context, leaving certain statements out, shifting the balance of a statement. People are misrepresented routinely everyday and not just by the press. Whilst I don't believe an English speaking PJ spokesman would be able to stop this kind of thing entirely, it might stop them having such a free rein. It's been all too easy for the English Press to justify lies and misrepresentation by blaming the language barrier. However, none of this answers the real issue here - and for this there are no such flimsy excuses - how and why did the Portuguese Press get it so wrong too? There seems to be a more devious intelligence operating here - and I don't think it's just from Mitchell or the UK's side (as diabolical as they are). I think a sense of balance on all this is long overdue. A myth has taken shape in the hearts and minds of those who allege they are 'seeking justice' for Madeleine: the Portuguese Press are portrayed as crusaders for truth and justice, the UK Press as riotous infidels determined to prove the McCanns innocent at all costs - and it's all complete nonsense. The truth (if there exists such a thing after the systematic mauling it's endured for 12 months) probably exists somewhere between the two extremes. On the otherhand there may be no truth in any of this. The only guarantee is that there are no guarantees.

guerra said...

Anonymous, I take it that you are able to read Portuguese and thus are in a position to also criticize the Portuguese press. I have followed this case in the Portuguese as well as the British press and I can tell you that there has been a lot of speculation on both sides and a lot of regurgitation of each other’s articles, but there is still a vast difference in the coverage. The difference in the coverage is that the English press will take something written in the Portuguese press and twist it around, and they will employ xenophobia and racism. The following are just some examples:

A Portuguese paper reports –over 300 leads with regard to abduction were investigated in Portugal alone.

A British paper reports – the lazy ignorant drunk lead detective ignored over 300 leads.

A Portuguese paper reports – DNA evidence with a strong match to the girl was found in the trunk of the car.

A British paper reports- DNA evidence was contaminated with cigarette ash.

Of course there were the references to: paradise for paedophiles, sardine eaters, banana republic, you get the picture. Another difference is you can post a comment in a Portuguese paper openly criticizing the Portuguese police and Portuguese institutions; you will be hard pressed to get a comment posted on a British paper that criticizes the couple or anyone supporting the couple. Lately though they will allow you to criticize the parenting skills of the couple.

You are right a spokesperson will likely not stop the British Press from resorting to such shameful tactics, but it may stop the media of other English speaking countries around the world from taking what is coming out of the United Kingdom as the gospel truth.

It has occurred to me that there is a pattern taking place every time the case files are handed over for review to a prosecuting judge. A couple of Portuguese papers which have used words such as “strong evidence” all of a sudden use words such as “inconclusive evidence” and claim that the case will be archived, of course this is quickly picked up and transmitted by the English media around the world. Hasn’t anyone else seen this pattern?

Cláudia said...

Guerra, amen!

Anonymous said...

Guerra, you are missing my point. I think it's just better to have a fully rounded picture of who has been providing the main commentaries. Just like it was revealing to see that Felicia Cabrita, author of 'PACT OF SILENCE' routinely courts controversy and leaps from one conspiracy to another (her report now occupies the first chapter in the gospel according to the 'antis'). If anybody kickstarted speculation online it was Cabrita. The problem is, for every anglophile determined to heap the greater burden of responsibility on the Portuguese, there's a dozen or so rancorous Portuguese journalists determined to heap it back on the Brits. Who knows, perhaps it was a preemptive strike given the crazy racism and intolerance that erupted in good old Blighty as soon as the McCanns set their foot back on British soil. The most riduculous thing to come out of all this is that the so-called 'antis' portray the Portuguese press as battle-weary crusaders of truth and justice and the British Press as marauding and corrupt infidels - which has been a very naive line to take. This event really did have the potential to damage Portugal's travel industry and its cultural reputation - especially as Portugal was about to assume it's six-month tenancy of the EU Presidency. The timing was tragic - and the world-wide media storm whipped up by the McCanns and Mitchell was pitifully insensitive. It certainly wasn't the right way to go about earning the sympathy of Portugal's own media or its government. A backlash was inevitable. Doesn't mean to say they're innocent - just that identifying one's allies is rather more complex than saying the Portuguese are always right and the British are always wrong.

More on Ms Cambrita (author 'PACT OF SILENCE') here:

Yes, I have read the Portuguese Press and followed them closely since June last year(and I have not relied on the occasionally 'imaginative' translations provided by 3arguidos forum members).

It is naive to view the Portuguese Press as 'good guys' and the British Press a the 'bad guys'. The Red-Top newspapers have always been racist and xenophobic (they are the least of their sins) but if you read a more adult and less right-wing publication you'd appreciate the coverage has been less incendiary than either the red-tops or the Portuguese Press. Let's face it, there have been just as many lapses and contradictions from the Portuguese side as there has been from the less than balanced British side.

(anyway, does any serious person read those crazy red-tops like The Mirror and The Sun?)

You sound like you are of the opinion that what the Portuguese Press say is 'true' and what the British Press say is 'false' (unless it suits what you want to hear about the McCanns).

I find that outlook hopelessly naive and hugely patronising to the Portuguese. I know for a fact they bend as many rules and abuse free speech as much as we do. Just ask Paulo.

More importantly though: let's not forget who got the files/case story wrong in the first place: the Portuguese Press. Stupidly, the British just repeated the headlines in Portugal (the British Press has been crap for years - what's the excuse of the Portuguese?)

Seems they were both wrong...

And where does that leave the reader?

Just how much of any of it has been accurate?

guerra said...

I don’t view or portray the Portuguese press as “battle weary crusaders.” I also don’t view it as a contest of who got it right or wrong, which you apparently do since you have concluded that the Portuguese press got it wrong. I certainly don’t view everything that is written in the Portuguese press as true like I said there is a lot of speculation on both sides. The latest story on the archival of the case is just another example of speculation. My main concern is that the Portuguese police and the British police are allowed to do their jobs without interference. The Portuguese press for all its faults does not twist what they quote from the British Press and they don’t attack British institutions or resort to xenophobia and racism and they do allow free debate. The xenophobia and racism has not been only part of the domain of trash like the Sun, the Mirror, the Daily Mail, Times Online, or the Guardian, even the BBC is guilty of it although in a more, subtle manner. The biggest problem I have with this case is that almost every British media source has disseminated the idea that this couple is special and cannot be investigated, which is a very dangerous idea to convey. I have seen British reporters ridicule the Portuguese police and yet take great offence when the integrity of the lab that is performing the DNA tests is questioned. I have seen reporters get upset when the efficacy of the dogs are questioned, they reply “no, no these are good dogs they’re British." I have seen programs where some character comes on television and with the wink of an eye says they have to incriminate the couple to save the tourist industry just as you are implying. Yet no one asks why don't they just incriminate Mr. Murat whom no one really cares about. Like I’ve said many a time, I like anyone else don’t have access to the case file so I can only base my judgment on the couple’s behaviour and they are not behaving like people who want to find their daughter. If they are not brought to trial, that’s fine with me since I certainly won’t be donating any money to a lost cause and I have no time to concern myself with the misguided people that do.

PS. I very much doubt whether you can read a word of Portuguese.