Stage 1b complaint: Dr Saleyha Ahsan – The Truth About Fat, BBC One, 2 April 2015

Subsequent correspondence with the BBC on this matter:

I presented a summary of my concerns regarding Saving Syria’s Children to Jeremy Corbyn MP on 16 December 2015.  See also this presentation for Frome Stop War.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

29 July 2015

Reference CAS-3287852-HMRP7V

Submitted via BBC Complaints webform

Dear BBC Audience Services

Thank you for your letter of 6 July (below) responding to my complaint of 29 April regarding Dr Saleyha Ahsan.

Your response does not address any of the concerns I have raised, which to briefly restate are:

  • In publishing on Facebook photographs of a captive in Libya in 2011 Dr Ahsan has plainly breached provisions of the Geneva Convention protecting prisoners of war and others caught up in conflicts against insults and public curiosity. [1]

As noted by former BBC legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg, the same Geneva Convention provisions were used by the US Government to justify its 2004 decision not to allow photographs of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to be published, with military lawyers claiming that releasing their photographs “would be inconsistent with the obligation of the United States to treat the individuals humanely and would pose a great risk of subjecting these individuals to public insult and curiosity”.

  • In other Facebook images Dr Ahsan poses with armed units which appear to include adolescent members. In her February 2015 Radio 4 play about her experiences in Libya Dr Ahsan expresses the view that the primary need of a 17 year old boy exhibiting signs of battle trauma is to rejoin an armed military unit. Other of Dr Ahsan’s Facebook photographs demonstrate a nonchalant attitude towards the presence of children amidst armed groups.
  • In the 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children Dr Ahsan is seen volunteering with Hand in Hand for Syria. Purportedly a humanitarian organisation, Hand in Hand for Syria’s co-founder has publicly proclaimed a desire to “bring Assad to justice; no matter what lives it takes, no matter how much catastrophe it makes”. A nurse who works alongside Dr Ahsan in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ is pictured wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic and apparently treating the battle injuries of a fifteen year old “rebel” fighter in a web article which celebrates the child’s fighting prowess. [2] In December 2014 Sam Hewett, Operations Coordinator of ShelterBox International, indicated that Hand in Hand for Syria was being investigated by Special Branch.

Note also that in 2014 Dr Ahsan spoke at an event organised by Cage. Cage has been described by The Daily Telegraph as a “terrorism advocacy group” and branded as “extremist” by David Cameron.

Please address the points above and as expanded upon in my initial complaint in light of Section 15.4.5 of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, which states:

The external activities of BBC editorial staff, reporters and presenters should not undermine the public’s perception of the impartiality, integrity or independence of BBC output.  External activities should not bring the BBC into disrepute.  It is also important that off-air activities do not undermine the on-air role of regular presenters.

Please note that my original complaint has been copied to Amnesty International which confirmed on 9 July that it has been forwarded to the relevant research team.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Stuart

[1] The appalling treatment of black Africans captured by Libyan “rebels” is well documented:

[2] Further shocking images of the same child and others attached to the same militia unit can be found here.


BBC Audience Services PO Box 1922, Darlington, DL3 OUR Telephone 03700 100 222

6 July 2015

Reference CAS-3287852-HMRP7V

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you for your letter regarding ‘The Truth About Fat’. Please accept my apologies for the long delay in replying. We contacted the production team who have provided the following response:

Dr Ahsan is a practising Accident and Emergency doctor, and at the time of this commission, she was already part of the established presenting team for the popular BBC Two health series, ‘Trust Me, I’m A Doctor’.

`The Truth About Fat’ was commissioned alongside ‘The Truth About Calories’ by BBC Science, for BBC One. It was felt appropriate for both of those programmes to have a presenter with medical expertise, and in both cases, a presenter from ‘Trust Me, I’m A Doctor’ was selected. In the case of ‘The Truth About Fat’, this was Dr Ahsan.

A primary consideration in her selection for this programme was that Dr Ahsan had a particular interest in this subject, having presented items in this topic area for ‘Trust Me, I’m A Doctor’. Furthermore, she herself was prepared to undergo medical tests on camera that were relevant to the subject of the programme, and whose results would give the audience insights into how fat behaves within the human body.

In the event, Dr Ahsan was able to deliver the content of the programme with the mix of authority and personal engagement that was required to make the subject accessible to a non-specialist audience.

I hope you will find this response helpful.

Kind regards

Lucia Fortucci

BBC Complaints

About Robert Stuart

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

5 responses to “Stage 1b complaint: Dr Saleyha Ahsan – The Truth About Fat, BBC One, 2 April 2015

  1. Pingback: Stage 1b complaint: Dr Saleyha Ahsan – The Truth About Fat, BBC One, 2 April 2015 | Philosophers Stone

  2. Pingback: Stage 1b complaint: Dr Saleyha Ahsan – The Truth About Fat, BBC One, 2 April 2015 | Alternative News Network

  3. Pingback: UK Charity Which Shares Syrian Opposition “Aims and Objectives” Benefits from Alan Kurdi Tragedy | Uprootedpalestinians's Blog

  4. Pingback: Dr Saleyha Ahsan: appeal to BBC Trust | Philosophers Stone

  5. Pingback: “Hand in Hand for Syria” shares Syrian opposition “aims and objectives”, financially benefitted from Alan Kurdi tragedy | Free Ukraine Now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: