The Boston Marathon bombings were shocking and fearful events that forever changed the lives of those who were affected. In response to the tragedy, we witnessed several acts of kindness ranging from the Boston area residents who opened up their homes and the citizens who sent pizzas to first responders, to the countless One Fund donations that as of mid-May amounted to over $30 million.
Americans may have banded together together to make several heartwarming and positive contributions to cast light upon the tragedy, but there is one particular area that the public had no business dipping its hands into: the investigation process.
By attempting to help authorities identify the perpetrators, online sources such as Reddit, Twitter, and the New York Post helped fuel a witch-hunt that ultimately misidentified the bombers.
Now, the Post is facing a defamation lawsuit from two wrongly accused individuals, Salaheddin Barhoum, 16, and Yassine Zaimi, 24 and rightfully so. The New York Post may try to deny or defend its actions. However, by releasing a report with a corresponding photo of Barhoum and Zaimi claiming they were the "Bag Men" authorities were seeking, the damage was inflicted and the Post must pay the price for its irresponsible journalism.
Barhoum and Zaimi were not the only victims of defamation. Sunil Tripathi, a then missing Brown student, was also misidentified as a suspect only to be later found dead in Providence. Then there was the suspicion that a Arab national hospitalized from injuries from the bombing was the culprit. It appears that not only were these individuals defamed but they were also victims of racial profiling, which is absolutely unacceptable.
Being wrongfully labeled a terrorist is not just a small inconvenience that can be remedied with an apology and a good laugh. These individuals who were defamed not only were harassed and condemned by their peers but even after the fiasco died down, the emotional impact remained which is more than sufficient reason for the victims to pursue this lawsuit.
One morning, upon entering his home, Barhoum was met by a flood of reporters, one of which showed him the issue of the New York Post, a sight that caused him to “shake and sweat, and [feel] dizzy and nauseous”, according to the complaint. This is but one of the events that has led him to file suit against the Post.
As for Zaimi, who has sought counseling for depression, he reportedly no longer enjoys running, a decision highly uncharacteristic of an individual whose lawyer cites that “[a]ll of his enjoyment came from the running world...” In order for a case to be one of libel, the victim first must prove that the source that defamed him or her made a false statement and that it caused harm. Barhoum and Zaimi irrefutably have a solid case.
It would not be the first time that the New York Post made fallacious claims which one can observe by referring back to the case in which the paper wrongly identified Richard Jewell as the perpetrator of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. If the Post wants to be regarded as a media source of repute, it should get its act together or give up entirely.
These complaints are not melodramatic aims to penalize the Post on some small technicality. The New York Post evidently did not learn from its reckless reporting with the Jewell lawsuit so perhaps paying the penalty for the poor bombing coverage will knock some sense into this media outlet. The Post’s negligent and inane error that will likely follow these victims for the rest of their lives and those working on the case must make certain that Zaimi and Barhoum leave the court properly compensated.