Where’s the Coverage? BuzzFeed Expose Alleges Torture Scandal at WWF

March 7th, 2019 2:53 PM

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature often appears in the news. Its experts and studies pushing environmental topics get reported. In fact, its Mexico branch was mentioned in an Associated Press story about butterflies March 6, just days after the WWF was accused of funding “vicious paramilitary forces to fight poaching” in countries like Nepal, India and Cameroon.

There’s been little national media coverage of the WWF’s alleged torture and murder scandal by those paramilitary operations so far. Will ABC, CBS and NBC and newspapers like The New York Times report the allegations against the famous left-wing environmental group?

On March 4 and 5, BuzzFeed released two extensive pieces alleging the park guards WWF trains and funds in multiple countries have tortured and killed civilians in their anti-poaching efforts.

Although conservatives often criticize BuzzFeed’s slanted and even “fake” reporting, the media promote it, at least when it suits their agenda. In January 2019, liberal media obsessed over a BuzzFeed “bombshell” alleging President Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. The anti-Trump story was later discredited, but not before multiple networks spent more than 10 minutes on it.

Will these new, shocking BuzzFeed allegations against the famous left-wing, environmental organization get substantive reporting by ABC, CBS, NBC or national newspapers?

After all, this is an internationally known environmental group with prominent backers and project partnerships with tech companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, according to its 2018 annual report. To be accused of serious human rights abuses certainly merits national news coverage if they are credible.

Some international media have reported the story, but so far, the broadcast networks’ evening news shows have ignored the allegations. As of the morning of March 7, The New York Times hadn’t touched it either.

By the same morning, The Washington Post has only brought it up online in three of its jam-packed newsletters. It tucked a total of 141 words about the BuzzFeed expose into the middle of its “Energy 202” newsletter on March 5, 117 words in the same newsletter the next day (after two U.S. lawmakers demanded answers), and 61 words in “The Daily 202” newsletter March 6.

All too often, the liberal press gives liberal organizations a pass for bad behavior. This may become the latest disturbing example.

BuzzFeed claims the reports are based on more than 100 interviews with former employees, villagers in multiple countries and internal WWF documents. It has already provoked calls for reviews from U.S. lawmakers and Britain’s charity regulator. It also prompted at least one British celebrity explorer ambassador to suspend his role with the group.

Its allegations included the story of Nepali farmer Shikharam Chaudhary who was jailed by rangers. Before he died in that jail after several days in custody, he allegedly told his wife his captors beat and waterboarded him. BuzzFeed claimed there were seven eyewitness accounts to the beatings in addition to Chaudhary’s wife testimony.

The Himalayan Times reported that several people from Chitwan National Park were arrested in connection with Chaudhary’s death in 2006, and that a post-mortem showed he had at least seven broken ribs. According to BuzzFeed, WWF staff in Nepal lobbied for the charges to be dropped and took a victory lap once they were.

“Shikharam’s alleged murder in 2006 was no isolated incident: It was part of a pattern that persists to this day. In national parks across Asia and Africa, the beloved nonprofit with the cuddly panda logo funds, equips, and works directly with paramilitary forces that have been accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people,” BuzzFeed investigations correspondent Tom Warren and news reporter Katie J.M. Baker wrote.

A companion piece published the next day reported that WWF was warned in 2015 “that its staff was complicit in ‘frightening’ raids on indigenous villages by anti-poaching eco-guards.”

Among the long list of shocking accusations, BuzzFeed alleged “The charity has operated like a global spymaster, organizing, financing, and running dangerous and secretive networks of informants motivated by ‘fear’ and ‘revenge,’ including within indigenous communities, to provide park officials with intelligence — all while publicly denying working with informants.”