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Reuters editor punished for chat room remark

A senior Reuters editor has been punished for remarks he made in a company messaging chat room. Andrew Marshall, pictured, who is based in Singapore, was formally reprimanded and given a warning letter.

Marshall is responsible for coverage of emerging and frontier Asia – Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South East Asia and Mongolia.

His comment about radiation levels in Tokyo following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown – “Is your hair starting to fall out?” – was directed to a bald colleague in Japan. 

It was in the middle of the night on the Asia desk in Singapore where he was alone on the overnight shift that had been started after the Japan crisis hit. 

There were about 25 to 30 people in the Reuters messaging chat room created specifically for journalists involved in the Japan disaster story. All were Reuters journalists, mostly in other regions. 

“I was feeling slightly miserable alone on the Asiadesk in the middle of the night watching images of death and suffering on multiple TV screens … I thought my message might raise a few smiles, and I know from extensive experience working in war zones and disaster areas how important this is for team morale,” he said.

Told he would be disciplined, he was interviewed and given a written warning, the least severe of three formal disciplinary sanctions available to Reuters. Marshall was told his comment was “both insensitive and inappropriate”. “I consider the penalty to be excessive and inappropriate,” he said.

Marshall joined Reuters in 1994 as a graduate trainee and has reported from more than 25 countries, covering conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territories and East Timor; political upheaval in Israel, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. He was previously a correspondent in Jakarta, deputy bureau chief in Bangkok, bureau chief in Baghdad, managing editor Middle East, based in Dubai, and Asia political risk correspondent in Singapore.

Reuters insiders in Asia said Marshall’s story is part of a wider saga, details of which are likely to be told soon. ■