If you want to understand why there's been a loss of confidence in the mainstream media, Friday's coverage of the Omar Khadr trial would be a good place to start.
Thursday's riveting testimony, juxtaposing Mr. Khadr's surprise testimony with that of Sergeant Christopher Speer's widow, is understandably front page news in The Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Star. However, that's where the commonality ends.
Let's start with the National Post (front-page pdf here) - generally thought to be on the right end of the Canadian media spectrum - which headlines:
KHADR TO SOLDIER'S WIDOW: 'SORRY'
Makes surprise address to court; says he hopes to become a doctor
Omar Khadr told the widow of the U.S. soldier he killed that he is "really sorry for the pain I've caused your family," and that eight years in prison had taught him that nothing can be gained from hate.
In a surprise twist in his sentencing hearings, Khadr took the stand yesterday to apologize to Tabitha Speer, widow of U.S. special forces medic Christopher Speer.
Khadr stood in the witness box and addressed the widow, seated just metres away in the gallery. "I'm really, really sorry for the pain I've caused your family," he said. "I wish I could do something to take this pain away from you. That's really all I can say."
Tabitha Speer sobbed as Khadr took the stand, but when he stood up to apologize, she clasped the hands of the people beside her and shook her head.
Khadr delivered an unsworn statement, meaning he did not swear in court that his statements were true, and the prosecution didn't have the right to cross-examine him.
In The Globe and Mail, by contrast, the fact that Mr. Khadr did not take an oath and was not subject to cross examination is found on page 19 (of the Toronto edition).
On the front page, we read, under a photo of the still-grieving widow and the headline
'You will forever be a murderer in my eyes' - Tabitha Speer
'I'm really, really sorry for the pain I've caused you' - Omar Khadr
"You will forever be a murderer in my eyes. It doesn't matter what you say," widow Tabitha Speer said, fighting to keep her composure in a hushed Guantanamo Bay courtroom.
"I've heard over and over how he's the victim, he's the child," she said, glaring at Mr. Khadr. "He made a choice. My children had no choice. … [They] didn't deserve to have their father taken by someone unworthy like you."
Moving to the front page of the Toronto Star - generally viewed as being on the left of the Canadian media spectrum - adjacent to court drawings that give pride of place to Omar Khadr, we read under the headline:
TEARS FLOW IN COURT
'I'm really, really sorry for the pain'
On stand for the first time, Omar Khadr apologizes to soldier's wife
Omar Khadr, now a 24-year-old convicted murderer, self-professed Al Qaeda terrorist and war criminal, looked across the courtroom and told the widow of the American soldier he killed he was "really, really sorry."
"I wish I could do something that would take this pain away from you," he said Thursday as he stood in the witness box and directly faced the widow and friends of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.
Tabitha Speer shook her head and pursed her lips, appearing to not accept the apology as she gripped the arm rests of her chair.
When Khadr stopped talking, she began to cry.
Taking the stand for the first time since he was first charged in 2005, Khadr spoke to the hushed courtroom for just under five minutes.
"During my time here, as Nelson Mandela says . . . the most important thing you have is time to think about things," he said.
"I came to the conclusion that . . . you're not going to gain anything with hate. Second thing, it's more destructive than it's constructive. Third thing: I came to a conclusion that love and forgiveness are more constructive and will bring people together."
Thursday's testimony in Khadr's sentencing hearing ended with the Toronto-born detainee's statement. Hours earlier, it began with poignant words from Tabitha Speer that had many here in tears.
And you have to jump inside to page 17, eight paragraphs from the end of the long article, to be informed:
"Since Khadr did not testify under oath, he could not be cross-examined or asked questions by the judge or jury."
But, if you wonder about that editorial decision, you haven't seen Friday's Edmonton Journal. Published where Mr. Khadr may end up studying, it carries the same report as the National Post on an inside page and leaves out this paragraph entirely:
"Khadr delivered an unsworn statement, meaning he did not swear in court that his statements were true, and the prosecution didn't have the right to cross-examine him."
Now, let's be clear: under the rules, Mr. Khadr had the right to make a non-sworn statement and to forego cross-examination. But let's also not deny that most Canadians would want to be aware of that fact in assessing his testimony.
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