Editor of Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ Tom Giles has responded to my brief (57 word) query regarding the identity and/or role of the western male filmed alongside Dr Rola Hallam at Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013.
In an angry 448 word email of 22 March Mr Giles writes:
I have no idea who the man pictured is. He may be either working with the medical charity we were filming with or at the hospital where the patients are being delivered. As far as I’m aware he’s not someone working for BBC Panorama – though it’s perfectly possible he’s a BBC News safety advisor as BBC News (whom Ian and Darren normally work for) have to use security advisors in Category One hostile areas like Syria because it’s so bloody dangerous. We don’t normally name them as it’s sensitive for their own long-term security.
It seems perhaps odd that a “safety adviser”, whether working for the BBC or Hand in Hand for Syria, or indeed an employee of Atareb Hospital, should apparantly be concerned with photography and facilitating interviews in the midst of a “mass casualty event”.
Mr Giles continues:
Though I don’t personally recognise him. So what of it? What difference could the presence of this person – whoever he is – possibly make ? Are you going to claim he’s part of some ludicrous half-baked conspiracy? Why bother – you already made your mind up about that back in 2013 and, as far as I can tell, nothing anyone says will ever make you ever see it differently. So I know there’s nothing I can say anyway to stop you just carrying on regardless with your ridiculous and hurtful campaign. Anything I say will be pored over and picked apart for some future complaint or point of order even though it is all based on the absurd premise that life -long BBC journalists would take part in a conspiracy involving the mass simulation of children dying of burns in order to help bring about the downfall of President Assad in cahoots with Western powers. All this of course, despite the fact that both the Panorama and the News item went out AFTER the Parliamentary vote rejecting the use of direct force against the Assad regime. In other words, based on your own misconceived logic, it was not just a ludicrous, manifestly-impossible conspiracy, it was also utterly pointless.
I noted in response (67 words) that Mr Giles is mistaken to claim that Ian Pannell’s initial BBC 10 O’Clock News report on the “playground napalm bomb” went out after the parliamentary vote on possible military intervention in Syria. As Hansard reports, there were two Commons votes on Syria on Thursday 29 August 2013: Division No. 69 (9:59pm) on the Labour amendment and Division No. 70 (10:17pm) on the government motion. The Daily Telegraph’s live reporting of the day’s events notes between 22:15 and 22:30:
As MPs vote, the BBC is playing a report into a horrific incendiary weapon strike on a school near Alleppo. Many children have been badly burnt.
Frontline Club comments on “held back” Darren Conway video
The Frontline Club has now commented on the absence from its website of video from the 15 October 2014 event at which ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ cameraman, producer and director Darren Conway apparently contradicted his colleague Ian Pannell over the time of the alleged events of 26 August 2013. The Frontline Club states on the event page:
The video from Darren Conway’s Reflections has not been put on the Frontline Club site to protect those colleagues whose names were mentioned that work in extremely dangerous locations. Everyone is aware of the extreme risk that journalists are facing today in places such as Syria and DC wants to do everything possible to prevent them from being put at further risk, something that we at the Frontline Club of course support. This is the only reason why DC’s Frontline Club session is being held back and, as soon as it is deemed safe for the individuals concerned, it will be made available on our site.
2013’s ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was the most recent work of Conway’s discussed at the event. To the best of my recollection, and that of others who attended, the only colleague other than Ian Pannell mentioned by Conway in respect of this project was “fixer”/translator Mughira Al Sharif, whom Conway referred to only as “Mughi”. As documented here (search for “Sharif”) Al Sharif openly proclaims pro-opposition sentiments on his Instagram account and elsewhere.
Moreover, as is the Frontline Club’s practice, the event was live-streamed on the internet. As Conway was undoubtedly aware of this, and of the expectation that video of the event would be published on the Frontline’s website, why would he have risked putting colleagues “at further risk” by mentioning their names?
A privately made recording of the section of the Q&A in which Conway appears to contradict Pannell is here.
BBC Complaints’ “very rare” 92 day delay over swapped Newsnight footage
Friday 17 April 2015 marked 92 working days since the BBC wrote to me stating that it may “take longer than 20 working days before you receive our reply” to my stage 1b complaint regarding the substitution of footage between two transmissions of an August 2014 edition of Newsnight.
On 21 September last year BBC Complaints replied to my initial (stage 1a) complaint, stating “we do not believe that the replacement of the footage altered the nature of the report, so we do not believe this breached our editorial guidelines.”
During my most recent phone call to chase the matter up (7 April, after 84 working days) the BBC Customer Services Adviser I spoke to expressed her bewilderment over the delay, saying it was “very rare”.
“Victim” who “fought to be allowed into hospital” had already been treated
Further scrutiny confirms that Ian Pannell’s BBC World Service report of (presumably) August 2013 is inaccurate in stating (at 3:06) “Fathers and mothers, desperate for help, fought to be allowed into the hospital, cursing their president Bashar al-Assad”.
As previously noted, the cries and rants heard at this point are those of the alleged father and mother of the woman in the black dress seen at 2:37 in the BBC Ten O’Clock News report of 29 August 2013.
On 23 April 2014 the BBC explained (pp 6 & 7) that in this sequence the woman had already been treated inside the hospital with white burns cream. She then “went back outside” (“to be evacuated” to “turkey or border hospital” according to Dr Saleyha Ahsan) prior to rushing back through the hospital gate (at 36 minutes in Panorama) with her family to declaim Assad to the BBC camera.
To say that the family was at this point fighting “to be allowed into the hospital” is therefore false. Furthermore, none of the alleged victims in Saving Syria’s Children are seen fighting “to be allowed into the hospital” – they are carried or walk inside, entirely unimpeded.
In his BBC web article of 30 September 2013 Pannell repeats the claim that “Fathers and mothers” “fought to be allowed into the hospital” but here substitutes the phrase “desperate for help” with “desperate for news”.