We'll caution you up front that we only have half of the story here, but the environmental group Amazon Watch put out a press release today calling on Chevron and San Francisco journalist Pat Murphy to "divulge their financial relationship in light of disclosures that Murphy's website accepts fees for editorial control of news articles written under Murphy's byline."
For many years, Murphy has operated the Web site San Francisco Sentinel. We've sent him an e-mail to get his side of the story.
On Monday, Chevron goes on trial in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on charges that it helped the Nigerian military shoot and kill unarmed villagers who had taken over an oil platform in an act of civil disobedience. Murphy was slated to cover the trial as a self-styled "independent" journalist with a press pass from the San Francisco Police Department.
Amazon Watch says in its press release: "Murphy's website, the San Francisco Sentinel, has the look and feel of an online newspaper and does not make it clear that it accepts fees for control of editorial content. For several months Murphy has been posting a steady stream of commentary and misleading facts to discredit indigenous groups suing Chevron for environmental contamination in Ecuador without disclosing he is being paid."
UPDATE Oct. 24, 7:15 P.M.Pat Murphy, Sentinel editor and publisher, sent us an e-mail linking to this response in which he says "The environmental front groups Amazon Defense Coalition and Amazon Watch continue to make false accusations against me and the San Francisco Sentinel."
While making a general denial, Murphy didn't answer our question about whether he was being paid by Chevron as Amazon Watch claims. We asked him again to answer that question. We've also e-mailed Amazon Watch to ask them what evidence they have supporting their claim that Murphy was on Chevron's payroll.
Murphy says in his response that the Amazon Defense Fund and Amazon Watch "stand to gain billions of dollars from the lawsuits by Steven Donziger, Pablo Fajardo and the law firm of Kohn, Swift & Graf — if their suits against Chevron are successful."
UPDATE Oct. 24, 11:15 P.M. Murphy responded: "I am not being paid by Chevron."
UPDATE Oct. 28, 7:51 P.M. Mitch Anderson, corporate accountability campaigner at Amazon Watch, responded: "As our press release states, Murphy has admitted on his web site that he accepts payment from companies to write favorable articles about them. Also on his web site he admits to writing articles for Don Solem & Associates, a public relations and marketing firm that lists Chevron as a client on its web site. We are asking Chevron and Murphy to explain the relationship between the two of them."