Is WikiLeaks sensationalizing Saudi Cables? A fact check on the Vatican memo

Published July 9th, 2015 - 04:48 GMT
Pope Francis presides over the mass vigil for prayer for peace in Syria in Saint Peter square at the Vatican, on Sept. 7, 2013. (AFP/Andreas Solaro)
Pope Francis presides over the mass vigil for prayer for peace in Syria in Saint Peter square at the Vatican, on Sept. 7, 2013. (AFP/Andreas Solaro)

WikiLeaks isn't often known for its sensationalism.

But disagreements over interpretations on WikiLeaks translations have some accusing the organization for hyping up Saudi Cables. A WikiLeaks tweet in particular on a memo about the Vatican became a contested claim among bilingual readers:

 

So what does the document actually say?

The telegram talks about relaying a message for the Vatican to encourage Christians to support the Syrian revolution and minorities who would face retaliation conducted by the regime. The last paragraph reads:

... We assure, with the rest of Syrian people’s friends, our complete commitment on the rights and freedom of all the sons and daughters of the Syrian people in its different regions, religions and national ideologies. We will not accept retaliation, exclusion or reduction the Syrian people may face, and that is why we are aiming to unite the Syrian revolution and assure its commitment in establishing a regime that ensures the freedom, equality and rights for all without exception. We support a political solution and the peaceful transmission of authority, but that requires placing utmost pressure on the regime to stop the killing, fulfill its commitments and accept that it is impossible to accomplish military victory. ...

No translation is perfect. This one was done by a Syrian native who's lived in the US for 20 years and speaks English fluently.

We can see why people contested the WikiLeaks tweet. The strong word "spared" is nowhere to be found in the literal translation; the word "Christian" is mentioned only once in the first paragraph, though anyone can infer talking about religious minorities in Syria to the Vatican implies Christianity. The memo's meaning, all in all, is retained.

Considering WikiLeaks was trying to paraphrase in less than 140 characters, we're going to give them a break and say the tweet was mostly true.

By Hayat Norimine


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