G8 “translation error” /”Übersetzungsfehler” dpa in Rostock

Stefan Niggemaier is famous in Germany as the founder of BILDblog, which follows up the extravagant reports in Bild and gives the real lowdown (now with assistance from co-bloggers). He’s not only a blogger, but also an experienced graduate journalist.

In his other blog, which I didn’t know, under the heading Chronologie einer Falschmeldung (Chronology of a false report), Niggemeier reports (thanks to Matthias for the tip-off) how the news agency dpa issued a false report about a speech in English in Rostock and falsely corrected it.

Here’s the original problem: at the demonstration in Rostock on Saturday June 2, Walden Bello, a sociology professor and opponent of globalization from the Philippines, said, referring to the war in Iraq:

Two years ago they said: Do not bring the war into the discussions. Just focus on poverty reduction. Well, we say: We have to bring the war right into this meeting. Because without peace there can be no justice.

This was correctly translated into German by an interpreter (I assume that’s what Niggemeier means by Übersetzer):

Vor zwei Jahren hat es geheißen: Wir sollen den Krieg nicht in die Diskussion mit reinbringen. Wir sollen uns nur auf Armutsbekämpfung konzentrieren. Aber ich sage: Wir müssen den Krieg hier mit reinbringen. Denn ohne Frieden kann es auch keine Armutsbekämpfung geben.

About half an hour later, these words could be heard on MyVideo.

At 18.41 on Saturday, dpa reported this as follows:

Um 17.30 Uhr werden die ersten Autos angezündet, während unweit vom Tatort auf der Kundgebungsbühne ein Redner die militante Szene noch mit klaren Worten aufstachelt: “Wir müssen den Krieg in diese Demonstration reintragen. Mit friedlichen Mitteln erreichen wir nichts.”

(a speaker from the militant scene stirred up [the crowd] in plain words: “We must bring the war into this demonstration. We will get nowhere with peaceful means.”)

The dpa text was published promptly by Bild and by Spiegel Online. Not long afterwards, Der Spiegelfechter, the blog that does for Der Spiegel what BILDblog does for Bild, gave a correction.

dpa reported that there had been a translation mistake, but it wrongly stated that this consisted in not linking the words ‘We will get nowhere with peaceful means’ to the Iraq war rather than the Rostock demonstration. In fact the words were never said, and it was not until Tuesday afternoon that dpa published a proper correction and apology.

To summarize the couple of days between Saturday and Tuesday: the false report was quoted, sometimes with embellishment, by sources including B.Z, various Swiss newspapers, the Stuttgarter Nachrichten, the Westdeusche Allgemeine Zeitung and the Kölnische Rundschau.

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