Craig Whitlock responds to Philip Atticus

Dear Mr. Ammerman,

Thanks for the note and for taking the time to write, though of course I’m sorry you didn’t like the article.

You make a good point and raise a legitimate question about why the article quoted so many people from Skopje, as opposed to sources from Greece. Please allow me to explain.

The purpose of reporting the story primarily from Skopje was to illustrate how the “name issue” is affecting politics and life in general in the Republic of Macedonia. After all, the issue in question pertains to that country’s name, and their people are the ones who have been unable to join NATO and are feeling the ramifications of this. I am sure that passions regarding the “name issue” are felt just as strongly in Greece, but I sincerely doubt that the dispute has had the same effect on the Greek economy or diplomatic relations between Athens and the rest of the world.

That said, please don’t misunderstand: the Post is not taking sides in the conflict. Just because I interviewed and quoted more people in Skopje than in Greece doesn’t mean that I or the newspaper endorse their views.

If you or others find their comments objectionable, that’s more than OK — we like our readers to make up their own minds about an issue. For example, it’s perfectly legitimate for you to question the assertions by Macedonian officials that the name issue threatens the internal stability of the country. But several people in Skopje — on all sides of the name issue, including some who think the Alexander campaign is silly — mentioned it as a real possibility to me. I think it would be disingenuous to ignore their viewpoints just because others might not agree.

Just because the article quoted more people from the Republic of Macedonia than from Greece does not mean that the story was unbalanced. I strongly believe that the article did present and summarize the position of the Greek government and cited its perspective on the name issue. In fact, most of the itemized points you raised in your email are, in fact, addressed in the article in some form.

In your email, you assert that the article contained “errata” and misrepresentations. It seems to me that you do not cite any specific factual mistakes, but rather just don’t like how the article was written and presented. I certainly respect your opinions and understand that you may have written the article differently. But I was careful with the facts and stand behind how they were reported in my story.

With best regards,

Craig Whitlock
Berlin bureau chief
The Washington Post

The New Reply of Philip Atticus

Dear Mr. Whitlock,

Thank you for responding to my email: I appreciate the consideration of your response.

I have re-read your article carefully in light of your comments, and you will permit me to reaffirm that the article is biased and one-sided. Taking only the final quotation of your article is a case in point:

The Greeks are sorry that they are called Greece and not Macedonia,” he said. “What else can I tell you?”

There is certainly no equivalent statement from a Greek source in the article. Given its arrogance and utter lack of relevance, it is better that there is not.

This pattern is repeated consistently in the article: inflammatory statements by FYROM officials: no rebuttal from a Greek official; no balance or disclaimer from the author of the article.

Mr. Gjorge Ivanov, is quoted as saying that “The pressure that Greece is making is destabilizing the whole region.” This is not the case: the region (which I presume refers to the Balkan region) is hardly being destabilised by Greece’s stance on FYROM’s entry into NATO or the EU. In contrast, it’s support for Bulgaria’s and Romania’s entry into the EU and NATO (which have already occurred) and its support for Croatian and Turkish future entry into the EU, are matters of public record. Greece supports FYROM’s entry into NATO and EU, subject to a mutual and satisfactory resolution of the name issue. Regrettably, you do not publish a qualifier in your article, nor do you permit the Greek side to make a response which would balance this statement.

Mr Todor Petrov is quoted as accusing Greece of ‘”practicing ethnic cleansing and genocide on the Macedonian nation” for the past 100 years. “They’re denying our nationality and culture and church and history and our borders,” he said.’ This is certainly not the case, since there has not been a “Macedonian nation” in the past 100 years. Again, there is no response, or balance from the article.

Mr. Pavle Voskopoulos is quoted as describing Greece as a ‘“country subscribes to a myth of a “pure” Greek people who are directly descended from Alexander and others from his era. “This is all about modern Greek identity,” he said. “If there is a Macedonia as an independent state, this is a great threat against Greek policy and Greek ideology.”’ This is hardly the case, but again, there is no response, or balance from the article.

I do consider these statements errata, in other words, “factual mistakes”, which contribute to a regrettably biased and unbalanced article, as I understand the meanings of these terms.

I await the day The Washington Post publishes an equivalent article expressing the Greek view of the situation.

Sincerely yours,

Philip Ammerman

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