Urgent submission to BBC Editorial Standards Committee

Full correspondence with BBC listed here.

Ref: CT/1400114

Dear Christina Roski

Further to my appeal request of 11 June regarding Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ I wish to urgently submit the following material.

1) The charity Hand in Hand for Syria has launched this fundraising appeal which identifies the hospital featured in Panorama as Atareb Hospital, Aleppo. That this is so is clear from images on Atareb Hospital’s Facebook page (please note there are some highly distressing images on this page).

This post on Atareb’s Facebook page states that on 26 August 2013, the date of the alleged “playground napalm bomb” attack, the hospital staff were “attending a battle first aid training course in Antakia, Turkey”. This may indicate that some of the medics filmed by the Panorama team at the Atareb Hospital for ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ were not regular Atareb staff members. If not, who were they?

2) On 29 August Ian Pannell described Atareb as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” (03:17); Atareb is described as a “field hospital” by Mr Pannell in his text article of 30 September and also by Dr Hallam at 38:04 in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.

However images on the Atareb Facebook page posted prior to August 26 depict a relatively well-equipped facility, including a kidney dialysis machine and surgical and x-ray facilities (both images 8 July 2013). [1]

Indeed, was the “high-tech incubation unit funded by Rola’s charity” seen from 29:00 in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ also located at Atareb “field” Hospital?

2) This report produced by opposition activist organisation Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria contains an account of the alleged events of 26 August by Mustafa Haid [2] in which he states:

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 on 18 February Ian Pannell wrote:

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

One or other of these claims must be false.

3) The report links to this list [3] of 41 alleged victims of the attack, several of whom are identifiable as individuals featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.

While the list corroborates Panorama’s claim that Loutfee Asee (Lutfi Arsi in Panorama) and Anas al-Sayed Ali (Anas Said/Sayyed Ali) died on 26 August (albeit citing both their ages as 15, rather than 14 and 18 respectively as in BBC accounts) it also claims that Ahmad Darwish (15), Siham Qandaree (17), Muhammad Assi (18) and Muhammad Abdullatif (15) all died on 26 August.

However according to Panorama Ahmed Darwish survived and was indeed filmed “a few weeks after the attack in hospital in Turkey” along with Siham Kanbari who, according to Dr Ahsan, died on 20 October. The image of Mohammed Asi provided by BBC Audience Services on 18 February purports to show him “two weeks after the attack in hospital in Turkey”. In the 29 August BBC News report Mohammed Abdullatif is the name of the adult eyewitness who (at 02:54) makes his formal address to the United Nations.

Correction 11/7/14 – BBC Audience Services claims that Anas Sayyed Ali “died a few days later in hospital in Turkey”, while Dr Saleyha Ahsan has stated (p15) he died “two weeks later”. The dates of death cited on the list and those of similarly named Panorama victims therefore coincide in respect of Loutfe Asee/Lutfi Arsi only.   

Addendum 21/7/14 – the list omits Mohammed Kenas who according to Panorama died “on the way to hospital” (i.e. presumably on 26 August). Mohamad Feda Khenass, 15, is noted as “one of the dead” on p20 of this Human Rights Watch report.    

4) This video features an extended sequence of the younger woman who seemingly shared clothes with another “playground napalm bomb” victim featured in Panorama. The woman excitedly relates (as I understand from a private translation) the alleged sequence of the events of 26 August before personally denouncing Assad and, from 02:02, remaining silent. Another young woman appears for few moments at 02:30 appearing entirely bored. The YouTube channel (‘atareb city‘) which hosts these unpersuasive performances also hosts videos of what are presumably Atareb Hospital volunteer staff posing with weapons (here and here). The partisan nature of Atareb “volunteers” is also evident from some of the hospital’s Facebook images.

I trust you will give consideration to the above points in your deliberations over whether to review the Editorial Complaints Unit’s decision.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart


[1] Images dating from only a short time after 26 August show a “radioscopy machine in use” (31 August 2013) and other hi-tech medical equipment (23 September 2013).

[2] An exchange with Haid is detailed in my letter of 30 January.

[3] This is a cached version, as since making this post the original link has become intermittently unavailable. (This note  added 30 June 2014) 

About Robert Stuart

Researching the 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria's Children and associated BBC News reports.

2 responses to “Urgent submission to BBC Editorial Standards Committee

  1. Quincy


    Thank you for pursuing this. It is clear that the scene was staged. I was going to add ‘to any reasonable person’, but no, to anyone who is not wilfully obstinate. This is an utter atrocity. The depths to which the BBC has sunk is appaling. Chemical attacks, napalm, are extroardinarily serious accusations to make, and to make it worse they bring in children to do their acting. They soften this accusation by calling it ‘napalm-like’ and other such phrase, so as to dodge making an actual accusation of the use of napalm, but they knew that by the mere mention of napalm they were poisoning the well.

    People seem to think, for some or other reason, that the BBC, funded by the UK government, is incapable of bias and distortion. You probably already know that the BBC has already been caught using photographs from Iraq to push their Syrian propaganda:
    Indeed, an internet search will show there are several websites dedicated to unearthing the BBC’s bias, distortions and propaganda, such as the following:

    Thank you for continuing this fight, Robert. I am glad you are fighting this fight, although sadly I suspect nothing will come of it. The exact point of acting in the film is difficult to prove in a way that would stand up in court, but it is entirely obvious to anyone who watches it. There is too much at stake politically, and not just for the BBC.

  2. Pingback: Fabrication in BBC Panorama’s ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ | Uprootedpalestinians's Blog

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