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“Saving Syria’s Children”: Response to the HuffPo

Corrections and clarifications to “Keith Allen Thinks The BBC May Have Faked ‘Apocalyptic’ Attack In Syria”

Saving Syria’s Children: Did The BBC Lie? from Robert Stuart on Vimeo.

By Robert Stuart | OffGuardian | May 13, 2019

News and opinion website The Huffington Post has written about my campaign to crowdfund a documentary about the 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children.

Keith Allen Thinks The BBC May Have Faked ‘Apocalyptic’ Attack In Syria was published on May 4th 2019. Some notes in response follow.

Stuart says he has spent nearly six years compiling “a mountain of evidence” that shows the BBC’s footage was “faked”. He claims the national broadcaster worked “cheek by jowl with Isis” to produce the Panorama documentary, which was broadcast in September 2013.

Evidence that sequences in Saving Syria’s Children were fabricated is set out on my blog. Readers are free to make their own topographical analogies.

During the programme’s making BBC Panorama reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway were embedded with then ISIS partner group Ahrar al-Sham – a group described elsewhere by the BBC as “hard-line Islamist”. Less than three weeks earlier Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS and other groups together killed over 190 civilians, including women, children and elderly men, and kidnapped over 200 mostly women and children.

In the programme’s climactic scenes of the aftermath of an alleged incendiary attack the BBC crew filmed at close quarters an ambulance prominently bearing the ISIS emblem and its militarily attired occupants, at least one of whom was armed.

In an interview with TalkRadio on Friday, Stuart claimed “the only source of [this attack] is the BBC”. However, the strike was also reported by NBC News who interviewed doctors who described the “apocalyptic” attack in detail, documented in painstaking detail by the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDCS), and confirmed by Human Rights Watch.

The NBC News article cited features an interview with a single volunteer doctor named “Roula”. This is clearly Dr Rola Hallam. Dr Hallam and Dr Saleyha Ahsan were being followed by the BBC Panorama team of reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway as they visited hospitals run by the UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria. As such Hallam was central to the BBC reports in question and cannot be considered an independent commentator. [1] [2] [3] [4]

The Violations Documentation Centre in Syria report cited gives the time of the alleged attack as follows:

On 26 Aug 2013, at 02:00 pm, the Syrian air forces shelled ‘Iqraa’ Institution in Orm Al Kubra in Aleppo, which had been under the Free Army’s control for several months then.

The VDCS report also quotes Mustapha Haid, “Head of ‘Doulati Organization/My State Organization’”:

At 3 in the afternoon, On 26 Aug 2013, I was in Al Atareb City and I heard rumours about a ‘chemical attack’ on Orm Al Kubra and that tens of casualties were brought to Al Atareb Hospital.

However the BBC has categorically stated in complaints correspondence that:

The attack happened on the 26th of August at around 5.30pm at the end of the school day.[5]

The VDCS report quotes a second witness, Issa Obeid, “Head of Nursing Department in Al Atareb Hospital”, who provides a first-hand account of his actions at Atareb Hospital:

We washed the casualties with water and serums after taking off their clothes. We used ‘Florasline’ liniment on the burnt areas and provided the casualties with fluids and some of them were given tranquilizers like Morphine.

However on 26 August 2013 Issa (or Iessa) Obied would appear not to have been present at Atareb but to have been attending a battle first aid training course in Antakia, Turkey. [6]

Iessa Obied has been photographed posing with an arsenal of weaponry including assault rifles, an anti-aircraft gun and a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile. [7] [8]

The Huffington Post reports that the strike was “confirmed by Human Rights Watch”. However Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director of HRW’s Arms Division, stated in a contemporary (August 2013) article that Human Rights Watch has “not investigated this incident“. [9]

HuffPost UK asked a team of ex-military and medical professionals who teach hostile environment training to view the full Panorama footage to comment on its authenticity.

Questions about Hostile Environment Awareness Training, the company cited by the Huffington Post, are raised by journalist Kit Klarenberg. “With the predictability of Chinese water torture, York’s once again written a propagandistic ad hominem hatchet job on an independent researcher, in this case @cerumol. Leaving aside his puerile insults, the ‘experts’ he apparently consulted are worthy of close investigation…”

They described it as “legitimate” and “consistent with chemical exposure”, adding the select footage in Stuart and Allen’s promotional video had been “cleverly” edited in a way to manipulate the viewer.

The BBC has been at pains to assert “that this was an attack using an incendiary device, rather than a chemical weapon.”

As noted on my blog a GMC registered doctor with burns experience has concluded that the scenes of alleged incendiary bomb victims arriving at Atareb Hospital in Saving Syria’s Children were “an act”. Further sceptical comment by medical professionals, including former UK and US military personnel, plus observations by lay people with experience of burns victims, is collated here. [10]

None of the BBC footage used in the crowdfunding video has been altered in any way, save for basic editing techniques such as freeze frame and fade.

Stuart also takes issue with the fact the documentary makers – reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway – worked alongside the armed Islamist groups that controlled the Aleppo region where Atarib is situated.

When required, all major media organisations negotiate access with whoever controls the area in question. Numerous journalists have risked their lives to report on what is happening inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Hamas-controlled Gaza or Boko Haram-controlled Nigeria, for example.

It is clearly in the public interest for BBC audiences to be made aware that a portion of their license fee revenue has apparently been paid to a jihadist group co-founded by “one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted couriers”.

The BBC rebutted the claims made by Stuart and Allen in a statement to HuffPost UK, saying there is “absolutely no evidence that any part of the programme was fabricated”.

It added: “Any such suggestion is offensive to the victims, medics and reporters.”

This statement was published on Facebook by BBC Panorama editor Rachel Jupp over two years ago in response to challenges made by film, television and radio producer Victor Lewis-Smith.

An RT report based on Stuart’s work was found to be in breach of Ofcom broadcasting rules and described as “materially misleading”.

Some important caveats in Ofcom’s finding against the RT programme in question have been noted by OffGuardian :

To be clear, according to OfCom’s own description of its remit, in the dispute between RT and the BBC, OfCom did not look into the BBC’s accuracy or credibility. Nor did OfCom investigate whether RT’s allegations of fakery were true or false. In fact the Broadcast Bulletin makes it clear OfCom ruled in favour of the BBC based solely on two things:

A) a finding that RT had broken “Rule 7 of the Code”, which requires a broadcaster to allow sufficient right of reply to anyone accused.

B) a finding that RT had infringed “Rule 2.2 of the Code” which requires a broadcaster not to present facts in a way likely to “mislead the viewer” – based on the fact RT had referred to Robert Stuart’s ongoing investigation into the BBC’s Panorama program as a “massive public investigation”, when OfCom thought the size of his investigation did not merit such an epithet.

Anyone can visit Robert Stuart’s website and decide for themselves if his investigation can fairly be described as “massive”, but the extent to which OfCom’s findings are themselves factual inaccuracies I’ll leave for others to explore. The most significant point here is that OfCom has specifically not cleared the BBC of suspicion of wrongdoing, and is not claiming to have done so.

May 14, 2019 - Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , ,

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