Type of site
|Editor||Mnar Adley (née, Muhawesh)|
MintPress News (MPN) is an American far-left news website founded and edited by Mnar Adley (née, Muhawesh) which was launched in January 2012. It covers political, economic, foreign affairs and environmental issues. Editorially, MintPress News supports Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and the governments of Russia, Iran, and Syria. It opposes the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia, and reports geopolitical events from an anti-Western perspective. In one contentious article, MintPress News falsely asserted that the Ghouta chemical attack in Syria was perpetrated by rebel groups rather than by the Syrian government.
Described as a conspiratorial website, MintPress News publishes disinformation and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, according to researchers at Rutgers University and others. MintPress News was a major media domain that spread disinformation about the White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer organization.
The site has been accused of regularly publishing pro-Russian propaganda. A report from New Knowledge includes MintPress News as part of the "Russian web of disinformation," and the site has published fake authors attributed to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency.
History and funding
MintPress News was founded by Mnar Muhawesh (now Adley), a broadcast journalism graduate of St. Cloud State University. She began her career as an intern at Minnesota television station KARE and as a freelance journalist. After posting her own work on a blog, in 2011 she decided to launch her own news site. Muhawesh said she believed "our media has failed us very miserably," and spoke of her aspirations for MintPress, citing uninformed public debates around issues like Iran's nuclear capabilities, or intervention in Syria. "We are in a crucial time in American history where most Americans don't know what's going on in the world around them."
MintPress News said it was a for-profit "regular news organization," with an initial business plan where advertising revenues would exceed costs after three years. MintPress's anonymous investors were originally intended to fund MintPress operations until 2015. The editor had investors, who Muhawesh claimed were "retired businesspeople", but she would not name them, a situation MinnPost said was "unfortunate for a journalism operation fighting alongside people seeking transparency. The site's 'About Us' page is similarly skinny." In a 2013 email to BuzzFeed News, Muhawesh said she restructured the business plan: "MintPress was originally funded by angel investors when I was first putting the company together over a year ago, but that route fell through last year as I restructured the business plan." She added: "I am the sole investor of MintPress." MintPress News' offices closed in 2014. Since then, the website encourages donations from the public via Patreon and through crowdfunding.
Muhawesh in 2015 said her funding comes "from donations, sponsorships, grants and ad revenue," and that MintPress was opposed to U.S. intervention in foreign wars.
Soon afterward, Brian Lambert of MinnPost wrote a blog post following up on Burke's challenge to find out where MintPress's money came from. He reported that emails to them went unanswered, their phone was disconnected, and the original office address in Plymouth, Minnesota, "haven't been valid in well over a year". While MintPress listed 20 of its writers, Lambert wrote it did not indicate where the money was "coming from to pay any of these people".
MintPress News received $10,000 in grants from the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees.
In Spring 2022, Jacobin reported that MintPress News was suspended from PayPal, citing an unspecified "potential risk" with the account. Adley told Jacobin that GoFundMe had previously terminated two MintPress News fundraisers, saying they had violated the site's terms of service. Around the same time, Robert Scheer reported that Google AdSense informed publishers, including MintPress News, that "Due to the war in Ukraine, we will pause monetization of content that exploits, dismisses, or condones the war." According to Scheer, GoFundMe included "any pieces that question the NATO narrative on Ukraine into the content it describes".
Initially, MintPress News was a typical center-left publication that reported on matters such as climate change and Republican candidates. However, the site's content had a clear focus on Israel and how "'American imperialism' was abetting the humiliation and slaughter of innocent Arabs". The site also ran numerous stories sympathetic to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The site publishes disinformation and antisemitic conspiracy theories, including ones on George Soros. The false information published by MintPress News attracts communities, including some Twitter users, that support Assad and the Russian government. MintPress News defended Russia's invasion of Crimea, claiming Ukraine's government was "illegitimate."
MintPress News has reposted content from Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik, and is listed as a "partner" of PeaceData, a Russian fake news site run by the Internet Research Agency.
Coverage of the Ghouta chemical attacks
On August 29, 2013, an unverified MintPress article attributed to Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh said that Syrian rebels and local residents in Ghouta, Syria alleged that rebels were responsible for the chemical weapons attack on August 21. The story alleged that Saudi Arabia had supplied the rebels with chemical weapons, which the rebels then accidentally set off; Foreign Policy magazine described it as one of the most "crazy" conspiracy theories about chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Human Rights Watch found no evidence for the claims.
On September 20, the Brown Moses Blog published a statement from Gavlak saying that "despite my repeated requests, made directly and through legal counsel, they have not been willing to issue a retraction stating that I was not the author. Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author of the Mint Press News piece." Gavlak also said the report had not been verified. Gavlak also told the New York Times that "There was no fact finding or reporting by me for the piece. I did not travel to Syria, so I cannot corroborate [Ababneh's] account" and that Muhawesh refused to remove her name from the byline because "this is an existential issue for MintPress and an issue of credibility as this will appear as though we are lying."
MintPress added an editor's note at the top of the article stating Ababneh was the sole reporter on the ground in Syria, while Gavlak assisted in researching and writing the article. It said that Gavlak was a MintPress News correspondent who had freelanced for the Associated Press (AP) in Jordan for a decade. A note at the bottom of the story says: "Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates." The Russian Foreign Ministry cited the article in future statements. On September 21, 2013, MintPress published a statement by Muhawesh saying soon after the article was published, Gavlak retracted her involvement due to pressure from third parties, which Gavlak believed was prompted by Prince Bandar. The statement also claimed that Abadneh was being threatened by Saudi officials.
Claims of Pro-Assad coverage
In October 2015, the Minnesota Star Tribune published a citizen op-ed by Terry Burke, an activist for the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria, in which she accused MintPress News and other "alternative ‘news’ organizations" of "never publish[ing] the international human rights organizations’ reports about the regime’s crimes. Instead, they post interviews with Assad, polls that claim most Syrians support him, articles on rebel or ISIL abuses, and stories that blame the U.S. for Syria’s uprising."
BuzzFeed News in 2013 described the site as having "an agenda that lines up, from its sympathy with the Syrian regime to its hostility to Sunni Saudi Arabia, with that of the Islamic Republic of Iran." According to Bellingcat, MintPress News has received the Serena Shim Award (organized by the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees), a financial award of an unknown amount, along with other websites which "routinely promote pro-Assad conspiracy theories".
Arbaeen pilgrimage claim
In November 2016, a MintPress News article entitled "Media Blackout As Millions Of Muslims March Against ISIS In Iraq" became a top trending story on Facebook, which prompted criticism that the article was misleading. BuzzFeed News countered, "This week has seen millions of Shiite Muslims participate in Arbaeen, one of the world's largest pilgrimages, in Iraq. But they are not specifically marching against ISIL, nor has there been a 'media blackout.'" BuzzFeed News said the article had been sourced from American Herald Tribune, a website edited by Anthony Hall, a 9/11 and Sandy Hook shooting conspiracy theorist suspended from his job as a professor at the University of Lethbridge on charges of antisemitism. Snopes described the claims in the MintPress article as inaccurate: "The pilgrimage was not a massive protest against ISIS, nor did a "media blackout" prevent news agencies from covering the event." MintPress stood by its story.
In 2018, MintPress News falsely claimed that Coca-Cola and Nestlé were privatising the Guarani Aquifer, a major South American water reserve. The site falsely claimed that the alleged deal was being negotiated by Brazilian president Michel Temer and has reached an "advanced" stage. The site offered no evidence to support their claims and only provided vague statements. Experts, like law professor Gabriel Eckstein, noted that it would be physically impossible for a private company to control the aquifer due to its large size. Coca-Cola and Nestlé also refuted the allegations.
A study led by Kate Starbird at the University of Washington found that MintPress News was part of a core cluster of websites amplifying disinformation about the White Helmets, a volunteer organization formed during Syrian Civil War. The White Helmets has been the target of disinformation campaigns perpetrated by pro-Assad and pro-Russian groups. Such disinformation increased dramatically following the Douma chemical attack. Many of Vanessa Beeley's conspiracy theories about the White Helmets appeared on MintPress News.
In 2018, during the 2018–2022 Nicaraguan protests, MintPress News published a "lengthy, insinuation-infused attack" on the photojournalist Carl David Goette-Luciak, a freelance reporter for NPR and The Guardian, implying he was anti-regime. According to journalist Joshua Collins, MintPress accompanied the story, entitled "How an American Anthropologist Tied to US Regime-Change Proxies Became the MSM's Man in Nicaragua", with a photo of Luciak beside an armed soldier labelled as an opposition figure, when it was in fact a government-supporting Sandinista. The false story nevertheless went viral, Luciak went into hiding, was eventually captured by state forces, threatened with torture and deported from the country.
Frequent contributors and partners
MintPress News frequently partners with the outlets Project Censored, Free Speech TV, Media Roots Radio, ShadowProof, The Grayzone, Truthout, CommonDreams, and Antiwar.com. In September 2013, Antiwar.com apologized for linking to and reprinting a MintPress News story that Syrian rebels were responsible for the Ghouta sarin attacks of 2013.
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