Third letter of complaint to the BBC

Full correspondence with BBC listed here.

The You Tube copy of Saving Syria’s Children linked to in this letter has subsequently been blocked by BBC Worldwide, along with all other You Tube copies – see here for more details. A copy of the programme has now been uploaded to Vimeo – relevant section commences 30:38.


For the attention of the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit

Reference: CAS-2541997-BLGF64

I have received this response from BBC Audience Services to my letter of January 30 regarding Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children‘ and related BBC News coverage. However, it does not satisfactorily address my concerns and so I wish to take my complaint further.

The primary point of my initial letter on this matter remains. It is self-evident that the section of the BBC News report of 29 August from 03:02 to 03:19, in which the tableau of male alleged victims are static and quiet until spotting that the camera is on them, at which point (03:05) they begin to groan and writhe in unison, is fabricated. (See sequence below and in full here).

0302

Picture17

0303

0304 alt - use

0305

0306

boyrising

last tableau

In its first reply to me BBC Audience Services indeed conceded that the boy in white (second from right above) who effortlessly stands up and then calmly reaches for a chair (and who is further seen pulling it towards himself and casually taking a seat from 34:19 to 34:27 in Panorama) “appears relatively unscathed”.

It is self-evident that this scene is acted. If one of the hospital scenes is staged, presumably they all are. [1]

Similarly, while I expect the Editorial Complaints Unit to review all the questions raised in both my previous letters, the main points of my 30 January letter remain. Following the section numbers and titles used in my letter and in BBC Audience Services’ reply, in particular these are:

Section 1 – Date of the alleged attack

The references in the captions of the Demotix photos to “napalm” and “students in the Orme countryside of Western Aleppo” (consistent with other accounts of the Panorama incident, which refer to “Orum Alkubra in Aleppo province”, “Awram al-Koubra, outside Aleppo” and “Urm Al Kubra, a village in the Aleppo countryside”) make it clear that they are intended to represent victims of the same alleged napalm bomb attack on the same alleged school [2]. However, the Demotix photos were uploaded on 25 August, the day before the incident featured in Panorama supposedly took place.

Surely another “napalm bomb” on another school or college, in the same area, a day or two before the one featured in Panorama, would have been reported by the BBC and other mainstream media. I can find no such report. I have written to the photographer, Amer Alfaj, via Demotix, to request clarification, but have not to date received a response. The BBC must provide clear evidence for its claim that these photographs represent a separate incident to that featured in ‘Saving Syria’ Children’. Without such evidence, the existence of the Demotix photo set entirely undermines the Panorama narrative.

Note, 20 April 2014: at some point after 16 December 2013 when these screengrabs were made the dates on the Demotix photoset were altered from 25 August 2013 to 26 August 2013. See this detailed discussion.

Section 2 – Discrepancies in the accounts of the first victims to arrive at the hospital

Dr Ahsan is absolutely clear in her ABC interview of 27 November (from 02:44) that the very first victim she encountered was a boy covered in “this strange white dust”, with “a huge laceration on the side of his face”, and who spoke to her, asking her where he should go. Your reply claims that she says that this boy was “one of the first” casualties, but she does not say that at all. Her account is clear – the boy with the laceration was the very first. There is no other possible way of interpreting what she says. This remains entirely irreconcilable with the scenes in Panorama and with all other accounts, including others of Dr Ahsan, in which the first victims Dr Ahsan (or indeed anyone at all) encounters at the hospital are the baby and his father.

Section 3  Discrepancies in the accounts of the baby’s injuries

The baby, who is featured from around 31 minutes in Panorama, does not appear to have suffered “severe burns”, and certainly not the 80% burns that Dr Hallam claims, which, as the high percentage indicates, would cover the vast majority of the baby’s body and would hence be unmistakeable. (See images below, click to enlarge).

baby1

baby2

Furthermore, if it were indeed the case that the baby had suffered 80% burns, Dr Ahsan’s advice (at 31:18) that “this baby needs to be picked up” and the child’s subsequent robust handling by both Dr Ahan and the father would seem to be extremely reckless and to pose a grave risk to the infant.

Section 5 – Discrepancies in the accounts of the father’s injuries

The baby’s father (seen with perfect clarity over Dr Ahsan’s left shoulder at 31:16 and then again holding the baby at 31:31) is vigourous, animated and vocal, and seems entirely unscathed. This remains in stark contradiction to Ian Pannell’s BBC News description of the father who “was also burnt and sat helplessly on a stretcher clutching his son” and to Dr Hallam’s description (from 22:17), in which he “also had a burnt face”.

father1

The baby’s father (right), who according to Dr Hallam “also had a burnt face”

father2

The baby’s father, who according to Ian Pannell “was also burnt and sat helplessly on a stretcher clutching his son”

Section 6 – All alleged victims retained their eyebrows

This alleged teacher interviewed in ITN-screened footage of the same incident is typical of other alleged victims seen in Panorama in that his eyebrows are pristine, despite the white cream suggesting treatment for facial burns. This person would seem to be the man in the white t-shirt referenced in note [1] below. (This note added 5 April 2014)

eyebrow lad

Picture61

With regard to the questions I have raised about the alleged injuries depicted in Panorama (specifically in sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 12), it is now clearly absolutely incumbent upon the BBC to solicit independent medical opinion as to:

a) The plausibility or otherwise of the alleged injuries as having resulted from the “napalm-type substance” that you assert was their cause, bearing in mind that “Napalm generates temperatures of 800 to 1,200 degrees Celsius (1,500-2,200°F)” and that “it sticks to human skin, with no practical method for removal of the burning substance”. [3]

b) The plausibility or otherwise of the demeanour of the alleged victims seen in Panorama, bearing in mind that Kim Phúc, a napalm bombing survivor known from a famous Vietnam War photograph, has stated that “Napalm is the most terrible pain you can imagine”.

c) The plausibility or otherwise of the deterioration of the alleged injuries in each individual case, and particularly in those of Mohammed Kanas, Anas Said Ali and Lutfi Arsi, as depicted as having occurred during the “four to five hour period” in which the Panorama crew filmed in the Aleppo hospital.

d) The plausibility or otherwise of the deterioration of the alleged injuries of Siham Kanbari and Ahmed Darwish as depicted as having occurred between the day of the alleged attack and the scenes filmed “a few weeks after the attack in hospital in Turkey”; and of the plausibility or otherwise of the deterioration of the alleged injuries of Mohammed Asi as depicted as having occurred between the day of the alleged attack and the photograph provided in your latest reply which purports to show him “two weeks after the attack in hospital in Turkey”.

e) The plausibility or otherwise of the demeanour of those whom you allege to have been administered with morphine and/or fentanyl, in particular Lutfi Arsi during his many appearances (including at 32:26 ambling in the yard; at 34:19 bobbing and weaving his head; at 37:51 walking, attached to a drip; and at 38:13 where he is alert and inquisitive, and sits up to peer at the camera) and the woman in the black dress during her energetic display of emotion from 36:01 to 36:24, who may or may not be the same person giving a cogent and animated interview from 0:17 in this Al Jazeera footage.

I will make some further brief comments on BBC Audience Services’ latest response. Please note that omission of sections does not in any way indicate that I am satisfied with the BBC’s responses in those instances, only that I have no further observations to add to those I have already made. As noted above, I expect the Editorial Complaints Unit to review in full all the questions and issues raised in both my previous letters.

Section 7 – Teenagers who allegedly died appear among the least injured

Your response here clarifies that the shirtless boy in the yard at 32:26, also seen later at 37:25, at 37:51 (attached to a drip), and at 38:13 (where his alleged injuries are discussed by Dr Ahsan and Dr Hallam), is Lutfi Arsi, identifiable elsewhere by his yellow ‘Super 9’ t-shirt.

This further demonstrates the point I make in section 16 regarding the extreme extent to which sequences in Panorama are shown non-chronologically: it is now clear that Arsi’s earliest appearance in Panorama, in the yard at 32:26, shows him at an even later stage in his alleged treatment at the hospital than I had previously understood.

Your clarification regarding Lutfi Arsi also demonstrates the extent to which the same alleged victims are “recycled” in the footage. As far as I have been able, I have counted around 20 individual alleged victims featured in the hospital sequences; it possible that, as demonstrated by my confusion over Arsi, there are fewer than this. This does not bear out your assertion (in your response to section 9) that “more than thirty were injured”, particularly bearing in mind (as you state in your response to section 16) that the Panorama crew were present for the entire four to five hour duration of the alleged event at the hospital.

With regard to the plausibility of the alleged injuries depicted, their deterioration, and the demeanour of those allegedly administered morphine and/or fentanyl, as stated above it is incumbent upon the BBC to solicit independent medical opinion.

Section 8 – Other discrepancies relating to the injuries of alleged victims

With regard to the plausibility of the alleged injuries depicted, their deterioration, and the demeanour of those allegedly administered morphine and/or fentanyl, it is incumbent upon the BBC to solicit independent medical opinion.

I would further draw attention to Ahmed Darwish’s hands, as visible from 33:47 to 34:00, and those of Lutfi Arsi, as visible at 32:26 (in the yard) and 37:25 (rocking on the bed). Dr Ahsan says of Ahmed Darwish’s hands “the skin was falling off as if he had been peeled”. I would suggest the appearance in both cases is rather of prosthesis.

ahmed

Ahmed Darwish (click to enlarge)

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Ahmed Darwish (click to enlarge)

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Lutfi Arsi (click to enlarge)

Section 9 – Discrepancies in the accounts of numbers of alleged dead and injured

You say you were shown “blackened corpses”. Can you confirm that these were the corpses of children? As stated in my first letter, it would seem far more plausible that the “school” is in fact a residential building which may well have been the scene of a shelling or explosion of some kind (although, from the limited damage depicted, certainly not of the magnitude of an aerial bombardment), and where there may well have been fatalities, although not necessarily children.

Section 11 – Same woman depicted arriving twice at the hospital

With regard to the plausibility of the alleged injuries of the woman in the black and gold dress, and the plausibility or otherwise of her demeanour with regard to your claim that she “would have been administered morphine and fentanyl”, it is incumbent upon the BBC to solicit independent medical opinion.

You give the reason for showing the two shots of the woman (bizarrely ranting at the gate in the first, being transported into the hospital by stretcher in the second) “in the opposite order” as being so that “people could remember her as she was being rushed into the hospital”. This makes scant sense, as it is only upon very close scrutiny that it is clear that these shots feature the same individual. (After several viewings, I had mistakenly identified the woman as two separate individuals in paragraph 12 of my first letter).

Section 12 – Discrepancies relating to Anas Said Ali

With regard to the plausibility of the alleged injuries depicted and their deterioration, it is incumbent upon the BBC to solicit independent medical opinion.

Section 13 – Number of bombs

With reference to the alleged earlier bombing of a residential dwelling, your reply states “When the first patients arrived it was unclear what had happened”. This is untrue. As I have pointed out, Dr Hallam makes it plain (from 22:17) that, upon his arrival at the hospital, the baby’s father “was telling us about how a plane had flown over their house and suddenly his house caught fire”. Bearing in mind the close relationship between the Panorama crew and Drs Hallam and Ahsan, and their continuing association after the alleged events of 26 August (including travelling to the “school” together, as you state in your reply to section 20), it is entirely implausible that this information should not have been available to Ian Pannell and Darren Conway, and incomprehensible that it should be omitted from ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and all BBC News coverage of this alleged incident.

Section 20 – Dr Ahsan’s visit to the school

Of the subsequent visit to the school by the Panorama team (which included Dr Ahsan and Dr Hallam) you state “There was a substance that had dried and hardened on the walls… It is possible that this was the after effect of the gel hardening, but we are not experts and can only report what we saw.” However in her account of the visit Dr Ahsan is clear that “We saw a white gel, clinging to the walls”, i.e. specifically not a “dried and hardened” substance which was possibly the “after effect of the gel hardening”.

Finally, to be absolutely clear, I must insist that the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit addresses the several points and questions in both of my previous letters which BBC Audience Services has entirely ignored in its two replies. These are the points numbered 1 – 6 in the first part of my letter of 30 January along with my request for a full explanation of the editing of Dr Hallam’s words between the BBC News reports of 29 August and 30 September. I repeat these points here:

1) Why has the BBC at no point in its coverage – which has included providing Dr Rola Hallam with a platform on Newsnight to espouse pro-intervention sentiments – felt it necessary to inform its viewers of the pro-Syrian opposition affiliations of Dr Hallam and of her charity Hand in Hand for Syria?

In reply to a question about her father, Dr. Mousa al-Kurdi, at a Save the Children event on 27 November 2013 Dr Hallam stated (at just after 51 minutes) “he is certainly not a member of the Syrian National Council; he is a gynaecologist, who like most Syrians has taken an interest in what’s happening in his country”. [4]

However an article written by Dr Ahsan in February 2013 states that Dr Hallam’s father is “involved politically with the Syrian National Council”.

The same article states that Hand in Hand for Syria was “formed by members of the Syrian diaspora”. As I noted in my first letter, the fact that the Hand in Hand for Syria logo is based on the adopted flag of the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army is abundantly plain, and was not disputed by Dr Hallam at the Save the Children event. [5]

For the BBC to conceal these political affiliations is fraudulent.

2) Is it plausible to describe the scene of the alleged “incendiary bomb” attack as a school? Is it not far more likely a private residence (a villa, according to this Arab language site) – note the swimming pool – which has been stage-dressed with an undamaged toddlers’ swing, a child’s shoe (neither of which match the age of the “students” seen in Panorama) and charred scraps of schoolbooks? (See from 40:52 and images below). Independent investigation is clearly called for.

Scene of the alleged aerial incendiary bomb attack. Note swimming pool.

Scene of the alleged aerial incendiary bomb attack. Note swimming pool.

Undamaged toddlers' swing which does not match age of any of the alleged victims featured

Undamaged toddlers’ swing which does not match the age of any of the alleged victims featured in Panorama

Child's shoe which does not match age of any of the alleged victims featured

Child’s shoe which does not match the age of any of the alleged victims featured in Panorama

3) Can the very limited damage on view in the “playground” (see above) be plausibly be ascribed to an incendiary bomb which, as Wikipedia notes, is capable of damaging an area of 2,500 square yards? Independent investigation is clearly called for.

4) Does 26 August, the date of the alleged attack, fall inside the Syrian school calendar? If it does not, why was this particular “school” open during the summer holidays? Is the same Arab language site cited above correct in stating (in September 2013) that there are “no schools now in operation in Syria, whether public or private”? 

5) Can the alleged injuries depicted in Panorama be plausibly ascribed to a “napalm-type substance”? As noted above, independent medical opinion is clearly called for.

6) Was BBC presenterfilmmaker and journalist Dr Saleyha Ahsan involved in the production or editing of any of the Panorama footage?

7) BBC Audience Services’ account (from paragraph 9) of the editing of Dr Hallam’s words between the BBC News reports of 29 August and 30 September does not explain why the images do not match even prior to the point where the variation in the soundtrack occurs. In this comparison of the two reports, at 24 seconds, as Dr Hallam finishes saying “..some sort of” – i.e. before any editing of her words has occurred – the images on screen are different. Most notably, there is a figure in the background in the 30 September version. Please can you explain why there is this difference in the visuals? Was more than one take of Dr Hallam’s interview made? Was more than one camera person involved in this section, and if so, who were they?

Please answer these points 1 – 7 in full, and solicit independent investigation or medical opinion where noted.

I shall be contacting the police to request they investigate this matter.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

Notes

[1] Equally as implausible as the behaviour of the males in the “tableau” scene is that of the man in the white t-shirt (second from left below) in the segment of Panorama from 33:38 to 33:46. This person would appear to be the alleged teacher pictured above (Section 6) and who is interviewed in this ITN-screened footage.  (This note added 5 April 2014)

whitetshirt

The demeanour of the person with the exposed back (centre, above) seems remarkably placid as he walks behind Ian Pannell at 33:22 and stands stock still for at least 20 seconds, bearing out former UK ambassador Craig Murray’s observation on the Panorama report: “having personally been in my career in rather similar conflict situations, I was struck by the strange absence of panic and screaming both by patients and surrounding family – I have seen people in that sort of pain and situation and they are not that quiet and stoic, in any culture.” (This note added 9 April 2014)

[2] I did not, as you suggest, claim that these photos were taken at Hand in Hand’s hospital, nor that they show the same alleged victims featured in Panorama. You indeed state in your response to section 9, “We know some of the victims did not come to this particular hospital”.

[3] Video of burning napalm from 01:44 here.

[4] In 2012, as Chairman of the Arab Institute for Clinical Excellence, Dr al-Kurdi addressed the Friends of Syria summit, as reported by Aljazeera. Dr Hallam’s father is therefore clearly someone who does far more than merely take “an interest in” events in Syria.

[5] Hand in Hand for Syria has recently removed the three red stars from its logo, however the previous version can readily be found using Google image search. (this footnote added 19 March 2014)

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BBC response to second letter of complaint

Full correspondence with BBC listed here.

On 18 February 2014 BBC Audience Services responded to my letter of 30 January 2014.

Below is the covering email followed by the full response. As is clear from viewing the file properties of the Word attachment, the latter is authored by Ian Pannell.

My response is here.

From: Liam Boyle
Sent: 18 February 2014 18:34:44
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

CAS-2541997-BLGF64

Thank you for your further contact. I’m sorry if you felt our previous response did not sufficiently address your concerns.

I have raised your complaint with the relevant people who witnessed and recorded the events in question. I attach our response in a Word Document, please be aware that it includes graphic images. It is not normal practice for BBC Audience Services staff to send responses from their personal email address; however, the size of the attachment demands this circumvention on this one occasion. I therefore kindly ask you not to publish my email address alongside any subsequent online publications.

This now concludes Stage 1 of the BBC’s complaints process, if you would like to take your complaint further, you can contact Stage 2 of the complaints process, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit, within 20 working days of receiving this reply, and they will carry out an independent investigation. You can email them at: ecu@bbc.co.uk , or alternatively write to them at the following address:

Editorial Complaints Unit

Media Centre

MC3 D3

201 Wood Lane

London

W12 7TP

Should you choose to escalate your complaint we would ask that you include the reference number provided above in your correspondence.

Regards,

Liam Boyle

Deputy Complaints Manager

BBC Audience Services
BBC Marketing & Audiences


FULL RESPONSE SENT AS WORD ATTACHMENT

Please respond using the numbered section headings to ensure that all points are addressed:

  1. Date of the alleged attack
  2. Discrepancies in the accounts of the first victims to arrive at the hospital
  3. Discrepancies in the accounts of the baby’s injuries
  4. No suggestion that the baby with “80% burns” died
  5. Discrepancies in the accounts of the father’s injuries
  6. All alleged victims retained their eyebrows
  7. Teenagers who allegedly died appear among the least injured
  8. Other discrepancies relating to the injuries of alleged victims
  9. Discrepancies in the accounts of numbers of alleged dead and injured
  10. Adult and young child fatalities identified in one account only
  11. Same woman depicted arriving twice at the hospital
  12. Discrepancies relating to Anas Said Ali
  13. Number of bombs
  14. Rumours of car crash in two accounts only
  15. Identification of the school and headmaster
  16. Sequencing of events in Panorama
  17. Siham Kanbari and her father
  18. English spoken extensively throughout hospital scenes
  19. Non-BBC footage of scenes at the hospital
  20. Dr Ahsan’s visit to the school
  21. Request for complaints information
  22. Notification of further action
  1. The attack happened on the 26th of August at around 5.30pm at the end of the school day. The pictures that appear on the Demotix website were taken at a different hospital (Bab al Hawa, not Hand in Hand’s hospital). None of the victims pictured are the same individuals as those who appear in the BBC’s reporting. It would seem to add evidence to allegations by Human Rights Watch and others about the repeated use of incendiary type bombs by the Syrian government. The similarities in the appalling injuries sustained would also appear to be consistent with this. The BBC was not the first or the latest to report the use of such devices. We happened to be on the ground, at a hospital when the victims of one of these strikes were brought in.
  1. Dr Ahsan is right, it was a “quiet day” before the incident occurred. She, Dr Rola and the BBC have all reported that the first casualty to come in was the baby and the father. They were filmed, appear on screen, and you can see them. There is no inconsistency. Dr Ahsan is correct in her interview with ABC about the boy with a laceration and dust was one of the first but the very first was the baby as she and we have stated repeatedly.
  1. The baby had suffered severe burns. You can see this on film. The child is clearly extremely distressed. It is for medics to cite what degree of burns the victims suffered and how to treat them, whether to pick them up, what drugs to administer. It is our job to report it.
  1. We do not know what happened to all of the victims, including the baby. Some with severe burns survived, others did not. The patients were rapidly dispatched to Turkey for further treatment and it took weeks to track a few of them down. These people are not on the other end of a phone waiting for a check call. They are surviving in a country at war, where more than a hundred and thirty thousand people have died and millions have been forced from their homes. Save for border areas there are no communications or easy ways of contacting people.
  1. The father had suffered burns that you cannot detect in the blurred and fleeting images of him on film. The cameraman was focussed, rightly, on the baby and the doctors instead.
  1. What you see on some of the victims is not a normal eyebrow but the singed remains of one. They do not just “disappear” to normal looking flesh unless the entire face has been burnt off; in most of these cases the hair had been burnt down to the root. You could smell burnt hair and flesh. You could see the ashes on the hospital beds from the hair of some of the victims. On other victims their eyebrows were not burnt. Those whose bodies were burnt to a blackened crisp, beyond recognition, definitely didn’t have eyebrows.

Here is a still image from the film of one of the victims arriving, eighteen-year-old Mohammed Asi. The marks of eyebrows are certainly detectable.

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Here is a photograph of him taken two weeks after the attack in hospital in Turkey.

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Any reasonable person would not describe this as a normal eyebrow.

  1. As stated, all of these teenagers died. Burns of this nature get worst as time goes by, not only do they effect the outside but the whatever was inhaled affects the inside organs as well, causing sever internal burns. But we are not doctors, we only report what happened.

Here are some stills taken from the video footage recorded at the time:

This is Lutfi Arsi, the boy you describe as “bored” and “relatively unscathed”.

Picture3

This is Anas Said Ali who you suggest “canters” into hospital as opposed to desperately and painfully struggling to get in because there was no-one to carry him in when all the stretchers were occupied (perhaps you can detect the difference in colour between his face and legs and his melted hair).

Picture4

And this is Mohammed Kanas, the boy who gasps for water (as many victims did) because (as the Doctors explained to us) his airways were burnt. He is the victim you describe as ‘not badly injured’:

Picture5

Finally, it is worth adding that some of the victims had suffered severe burns to their airways which of course you cannot see.

  1. Ahmed does have burns above his lip. Here is another screen-grab where you can just about detect that:

Picture6

And here is a screen grab of Ahmed about a week later in hospital in Turkey

Picture7

The other boy you cite is Lutfi Arsi. He, like all the victims received morphine upon arrival at the hospital. He, like all the victims was in shock. Here you describe him as casual. I would describe him as doped-up, dazed, confused and in shock. You can see the large swathes of skin on his face that had burned off. He died.

Picture8

  1. At no point did we ever suggest everyone died at the school. As far as we were aware three died instantly at the scene – we were shown the crisp, blackened corpses. A further seven died either on their way to hospital or once in Turkey. It is possible more may have died subsequently. More than thirty were injured. This figure was given to us by the hospital at the time. We know some of the victims did not come to this particular hospital and so the actual figure is probably higher.
  1. Most of the victims we filmed were teenagers aged between thirteen and eighteen. Those you describe as adults are teenagers. Any queries about what others may have said should be addressed to those people or organisations.
  1. The woman in a black dress with flowers was filmed arriving at the hospital and then she was filmed a second time after she had treatment (the application of burn cream) standing outside the hospital with her family. These are not two “arrival shots”. One is arriving the other is stood outside after treatment. The use of these shots in the opposite order makes no journalistic or editorial difference to the telling of this story, it was edited this way to show how distraught the victim and her father were and then to flash back so people could remember her as she was rushed into the hospital.

She, like all the victims would have been administered morphine and fentanyl to treat the pain, which might explain why she does not appear in “physical pain”. There was a constant stream of people arriving, some received initial treatment and then wandered outside and back in again. Some were doused in water outside the hospital because of the fear of chemical weapons. It was a scene of chaos with patients arriving, wandering in and out searching for treatment or family and friends or anyone to help, being taken back inside, some then being rushed off and in come cases brought back in again. This is how it happened and how it was depicted in the editing of the film. It was impossible to follow and report events chronologically and impossible to individually focus on any patients movement throughout the entire event because that would have meant not focussing on others, the wider picture or the doctors whose work we were supposed to be filming.

  1. I would disagree that this constitutes a “distinctly different account”. We were told that Anas was at school to pick up his little sister. It is entirely possible Dr Ahsan acquired further information that he had rushed to the scene after the first attack (which occurred a couple of buildings away). Either way, he was at the school to pick up his little sister.

As for his father, perhaps he chose not to appear on camera, we do not recall him amongst the scores of distressed and shocked people crammed into the hospital working flat out to save lives or find out whether relatives were alive or dead. Many made the decision not to be identified for fear of being imprisoned and tortured by the government (something else which has been well documented).

As for your “evidence” about melted hair, you can clearly see in his image above (point 7) that Anas’ hair had partly melted; you can see this with Mohammed (point 6) and a number of others.

  1. There were two attacks. There is eyewitness footage from the first that we have seen: it was a residential apartment block. The second attack was on the school. When the first patients arrived it was unclear what had happened, so that is why we say that. It then became clear there had been an incendiary bomb attack.
  1. It wasn’t a car crash.
  1. We had a personal agreement with the headmaster not to name him or the school. We have no intention of breaking that promise.
  1. A – There is no chronological detail in the editing of the film or the news piece that misleads. The editing has been done to show the mayhem and the mood of what was happening around. This event happened in a 4 to 5 hour period and everything that was filmed happened within that time frame, but not everything was edited in exact chronological order other than the start and end of the day. At no point does this mislead or change the context of the event. What filmed is what happened. The context, scale, or events shown have not been changed or altered because the order of the edit is not in keeping with the chronological time frame.

B – We are recording the audio of the two doctors with radio microphones at all times, and at times they are referring to patients that we have previously filmed or about to film, while we are filming something else. So their audio is still being recorded even though we might be filming blood on the floor, or a cutaway that enables us to show the scene happening all around which will help us in the editing process. So we use the audio of the doctors referring to the victims over actual images of the victims. Again, this does not change the context of the actual event that we are documenting.

C – The editing is not completely sequential, we are telling the story of the event, trying to capture the mood of the consistency of victims arriving outside while being treated inside (which is what happened), to show the chaos, and true horror of what happened. It is clear there is no attempt to ‘hide or mislead’ because it is obvious who the victims are and where they are at all times.

D – That is the same room throughout. There were many victims being treated in this room so we were trying to film them all, which obviously means filming from different angles and of course at slightly different times. During these times they are moved around from bed to bed, have different treatment, all of which is chaotic but necessary as their lives were trying to be saved. We do not stay in one place at all times and as you can imagine we also had to try and stay out of the way of the doctors and nurses when they required us to so they could do their work. We also move around because as people were being treated upstairs (in this room for example), others were being treated in other rooms, some victims were still arriving and some were being rushed off for treatment elsewhere. We were moving around capturing many different things all of the time so that we could try and show the story that was unfolding around us. As you can imagine, if we let everything just run without editing the sequences the film would last about 4 hours. This is what editing is for.

  1. Siham’s father is the man on the left of the screen in a beige t-shirt who looks (unsurprisingly) emotionally and physically distressed, not the man in green (presumably a relative). We met the father in Turkey with his wife, we sat with them as they wept and we tried to console a mother and father who were devastated by what had happened to their daughter. Siham was not an “alleged” victim. She died a few weeks after we filmed her in hospital in Turkey.

Here is a picture of Siham in hospital in turkey not long before she died

Picture9

  1. Anas Said Ali had graduated from the school, having studied English, hence his ability to speak English.

Both doctors had radio microphones throughout the days of filming and naturally described events and gave observations as they occurred in the hope of showing the world what the situation in Syria is really like for civilians, in particular children.

  1. When attacks happen in Syria, local journalists and media activists try to reach the scene and record events, hence the presence of more than one camera. Yes, we were at the hospital when the victims arrived. Most Syrian hospitals receive large intakes of casualties on a regular basis as a result of the war. Like most media we have been in many hospitals in Syria including one in Aleppo city, where victims of attacks arrive in waves, around the clock. Many of these hospitals do not exist any longer due to targeting by the regime (also documented).
  1. We visited the school together. There was a small amount of smouldering and a strong, acrid, chemical smell. There were many shots we took at the scene that were not used in the final film, as is often the case. There was a substance that had dried and hardened on the walls, we filmed it but for legal reasons were not allowed to collect samples (it is a breach of both British and Turkish law to transport exploded materials into the country). It is possible that this was the after effect of the gel hardening, but we are not experts and can only report what we saw. We do remember seeing what appeared to be melted flesh on the walls.
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