Ofcom rules on RT “napalm bomb” programme

Ofcom has ruled that a March 2014 RT programme which included allegations that scenes in the 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children were fabricated breaches the regulator’s broadcasting code.

The RT programme in question – The Truthseeker: “Media ‘Staged’ Syria Chem Attack” – is here.

Ofcom’s decision is here (pp 22 – 49 and 89 – 124).

The website OffGuardian notes some “rather important caveats” in Ofcom’s finding:

..Ofcom does not regulate BBC licence fee funded services in respect of accuracy and impartiality and Ofcom has not undertaken an assessment of the accuracy and/or impartiality of the BBC Programmes in reaching this Decision….” OfCom’s Broadcast Bulletin p. 33 fn.11

…Ofcom is not a fact finding tribunal and is not able or empowered, therefore, to establish the truth or otherwise of such allegations and to make findings of fact. Accordingly, it was not possible or appropriate for Ofcom to attempt to prove or disprove the allegations made [by RT] about the BBC in the Programme. Similarly, Ofcom had no statutory jurisdiction to assess the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC Programmes. Rather, our concern in this case was solely whether, taking account of Section Seven of the Code, the Programme had resulted in unfairness to the BBC. – op. cit p. 115

RT maintains that the BBC footage in question “clearly was faked” and that “any damage to the reputation and good name of the BBC [was] self-inflicted”. Evidence supporting RT’s contention is detailed here. [1] A press statement from the broadcaster is here.

OffGuardian observes that Ofcom’s finding “has been trumpeted by the Beeb itself and other mainstream outlets as a ringing vindication of BBC editorial standards” – see these reports from the BBC, The Independent and The Guardian. I have commented below the Independent and Guardian pieces as “cerumol”. (January 2017: I note that my comment below The Independent article has been removed). 

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[1] In my view, The Truthseeker’s focus on the editing of Dr Rola Hallam’s notorious “interview” is misplaced, for reasons I set out here.

In the age of media manipulation how much can we afford to take on trust?

My thoughts on the editing of Dr Hallam’s words are here http://bit.ly/1QyKJPE

OffGuardian

by BlackCatte

OfCom’s recent Broadcast Bulletin carries details of its rulings in favour of the BBC in its claim for unfair treatment by the Russian broadcaster RT about this program aired by RT in 2014.

The BBC complained to OfCom (page 30 of the above linked document) that “the Programme presented information in an inaccurate and misleading way”. In finding for the BBC, OFCom has now upheld that complaint. This has been trumpeted by the Beeb itself and other mainstream outlets as a ringing vindication of BBC editorial standards, so it’s worth reminding ourselves at the outset that the Bulletin carries these rather important caveats:

..Ofcom does not regulate BBC licence fee funded services in respect of accuracy and impartiality and Ofcom has not undertaken an assessment of the accuracy and/or impartiality of the BBC Programmes in reaching this Decision….”OfCom’s Broadcast Bulletin p. 33 fn.11

…Ofcom is not…

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Concerns about Hand in Hand for Syria raised with Charity Commission

The following has been submitted via the Charity Commission webform Raising concerns about a charity:

Section 1: Charity Details

Charity name

Hand in Hand for Syria

Charity number (if known)

1145862

Section 2: Identifying the issue

Identify which of the below best represents the concerns that you wish to report: 

  • Serious non-compliance in a charity which, left unchecked, could damage public trust and confidence in the Charity Commission as an effective regulator

Section 3: Details of your concerns

Do you have evidence of this?

Yes

Please provide a summary of the evidence

The Charity Commission’s website states that Hand in Hand for Syria exists for “the advancement of health or saving lives”. Until July 2014 the Facebook banner of Hand in Hand’s co-founder and chairman Faddy Sahloul read “WE WILL BRING ASSAD TO JUSTICE; NO MATTER WHAT LIVES IT TAKES, NO MATTER HOW MUCH CATASTROPHE IT MAKES”. The image was removed shortly after it was commented on publicly. Mr Sahloul’s bloodthirsty sentiments were “liked” on Facebook by Hand in Hand for Syria co-founder Fadi Al-Dairi. Along with Mr Sahloul, Mr Al-Dairi is listed as one of Hand in Hand for Syria’s Trustees on the Charity Commission website.

A nurse filmed working at a Hand in Hand for Syria hospital in Atareb, Aleppo, Syria in a 2013 BBC Panorama documentary was subsequently photographed at the same hospital in 2014 wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic and ostensibly tending to the injuries of a child combatant. The web article hosting the photograph celebrates the fifteen year old’s supposed battle prowess.

Full details and links to sources are here: http://bit.ly/1hYNSMR. Peace activist Dr Declan Hayes has raised many more questions about Hand in Hand for Syria in this dossier: http://www.taigs.com/Hand-in_Glove.pdf

Please set out any additional facts and information about the serious issue that you wish to report

Hand in Hand for Syria’s original three-star logo is plainly based on the flag adopted by the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council. In 2014 the charity removed the stars from its logo.

The father of Hand in Hand for Syria executive team member Dr Rola Hallam, Dr. Mousa al-Kurdi, has been described in an Open Democracy article as “involved politically with the Syrian National Council”. In a 2012 Al Jazeera interview Dr al-Kurdi passionately advocates for the Syrian National Council’s recognition as the “sole representative” of all Syrians and relates how, following his address to the Friends of Syria summit in Istanbul in 2012 (attended by Hillary Clinton) he personally told Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu “You’re not doing enough” and demanded of Professor Davutoğlu and several other foreign ministers present, including the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland, “either you defend us or you arm the Syrian Free Army to defend us – you have the choice”.

Details of attempts you have made to get the charity to address this issue. Please provide details of when you reported this issue to the charity and the outcome:

I do not wish to contact Hand in Hand for Syria as the charity is clearly linked to violent extremists whose sentiments are shared at the highest levels of the organisation.

Details of any previous correspondence or contact with us: 

None in relation to Hand in Hand for Syria.

Details of previous correspondence with any other public body about these matters: 

Correspondence with the BBC in relation to the September 2013 BBC Panorama documentary ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and related BBC News reports, which feature Hand in Hand for Syria prominently, is here: http://bit.ly/1yaFKOq

Analysis and discussion of the above BBC reports is here: http://bit.ly/1qA9qAA

Is the issue that you wish to report the subject of any legal proceedings or litigation? If so please give details:

In an email of 19 December 2014 Sam Hewett, Operations Coordinator of ShelterBox International, wrote:

“We look forward to the results of the investigations of the Charity Commission. Special Branch have also been in contact with ShelterBox, and we have no doubt that they will also have been making investigations with Hand in Hand for Syria.”

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The Charity Commission’s response to the above submission is here.

In March 2016 a further submission containing images of a Hand in Hand for Syria staff member posing with weapons, including an anti-aircraft gun and a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile, was made to the Charity Commission. See also Regulator rejects complaint about ‘charity worker’ who allegedly posed with weapons and Hand in Hand for Syria attempts to distance itself from worker who posed with weapons.

Please view this video and visit the home page of this blog for further context to the material contained in this post.  

Is the BBCs Ian Pannell complicit in crude anti-Syrian propaganda?

A post reviewing my analysis of ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, which contends in particular that there was more than one take of Dr Rola Hallam’s notorious “interview” at Atareb Hospital gate. This is a widespread belief in relation to this material and in my view a mistaken one, so I have drafted a fairly lengthy response in the comments section (a direct link to my comment is here: http://bit.ly/1QyKJPE).

Road To Somewhere Else

This is Ian Pannell’s latest BBC report on Syrian chemical weapon use (September 10) allegedly by the Syrian government and ISIS. Apparently this is yet more evidence of chemical attacks.

I want to declare from the outset that I am not a conspiracy theorist. That’s not to say, historically, there have not been genuine conspiracies’ undertaken by the state against adversaries that have served the political agendas of their protagonists.These have come in many guises from false flag attacks such as the Russian apartment bombings in 1999, the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 and the nurse Nayirah affair in 1990.

After having studied the contents of Robert Stuart’s blog in which he has tenaciously examined the September 30, 2013 edition of the BBC Panorama documentary, ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and other related BBC news reports by presenter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway, Stuart has attempted, without much success, to negotiate around its Orwellian…

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BBC presenter’s Facebook images which may breach Geneva Convention are removed

From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 10 September 2015 11:51:48
To: Trust Editorial (trusteditorial@bbc.co.uk)

Dear Ms Clarke

In answer to your query I am requesting extra time to appeal as I am currently waiting for vital information in the form of a legal opinion which I wish to include in my submission.

As you will be aware from my stage 1a and stage 1b complaints, one of my contentions is that in publishing images of a captive in the 2011 Libya conflict Dr Saleyha Ahsan has breached provisions of the Geneva Convention.

In addition to the observations of former BBC legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg which are referred to in my complaints, former president of the International Committee of the Red Cross Jakob Kellenberger has stated:

“It is forbidden to expose prisoners of war to public curiosity… and the essential thing is to make clear to all parties that PoWs should not be exposed in any form”

I am bringing to the attention of the Trust matters of the utmost gravity relating to a prominent BBC employee.  I therefore hope that the Trust will accept my request for a further 15 working days in which to submit my appeal.  I understand that it is open to me to initiate legal action against Dr Ahsan irrespective of the Trust’s decision.

I note that in the last day or so the images in question have been removed from Dr Ahsan’s Facebook account. (See for example here and here). Please make a record of the screengrabs that are collected here, which demonstrate that all the images I refer to were published on Dr Ahsan’s Facebook account in April this year (links to the locations of the original posts are below each). Should you require them, I can provide screengrabs and downloads of the original images of the captive which demonstrate that his face was visible in the posts made by Dr Ahsan.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/


From: TrustEditorial@bbc.co.uk
To: Robert Stuart
Subject: RE: BBC Complaints – CAS-3414060-Y3SF9B
Date: Tue, 8 Sep 2015 09:23:15 +0000

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you for your email.

We note your request for an additional 15 working days to submit your appeal to the Trust. The Editorial Complaints Procedure (http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/regulatory_framework/protocols/2014/complaints_fr_work_ed_complaints.pdf) sets out that exceptionally, the Trust may decide to consider a complaint submitted after 20 working days of the date of receipt of the BBC Executive’s final response at Stage 1b or 2, if it decides there was a good reason for the delay. We would therefore be grateful if you could briefly set out your reasons for requesting extra time to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Kirsty

Kirsty Clarke
Complaints Adviser

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
BBC Trust
180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 03 September 2015 16:52
To: Trust Editorial
Subject: FW: BBC Complaints – CAS-3414060-Y3SF9B

Dear Sir/Madam

I intend to submit an appeal to the Trust as directed in BBC Complaints’ Stage 1b decision of 27 August (below).

I would be most grateful if the Trust would consider extending the deadline for response from Thursday 24 September (20 working days) to Thursday 15 October (35 working days).

Please note I have also today contacted BBC Complaints via its webform to seek clarification as to why I have not been offered the option of pursuing my complaint with the Editorial Complaints Unit or with the “BBC division responsible for the content” I am complaining about, in line with section 4 of the BBC’s Editorial complaints and appeals procedures.

Yours faithfully

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/


From: bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk
To: Robert Stuart
Date: Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:07:09 +0100
Subject: BBC Complaints – CAS-3414060-Y3SF9B

Dear Mr Stuart 

Thank you for taking the time to contact us again and please accept our apologies for the delay in responding. We have noted your points and are sorry to learn you were not satisfied with our earlier response.

Our previous reply set out why we believe Dr Ahsan was a suitable presenter for The Truth About Fat and we have nothing to add to that response.  [this response is copied here, below my subsequent appeal]

With regard to the additional point you raise about the publication of photographs on Facebook – we note that no criminal charges have been brought against Dr Ahsan in relation to this, and no judgments issued against her. Any such proceedings would of course be taken into account when considering a presenter’s suitability for a role. We do not believe that Dr Ahsan’s role as a presenter breaks any of our guidelines on Impartiality or Conflicts of Interest and there are no grounds to exclude her from presenting our programmes.  

Your concerns relating to Panorama: Saving Syria’s Children have previously been considered by the BBC Trust and will not be revisited here. 

We therefore do not believe that your further complaint has raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation. We will not correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions, made about this issue or our responses to it.

If you are dissatisfied with this decision you can appeal to the BBC Trust, the body which represents licence fee payers. The Trust has asked that we should explain to complainants that the BBC’s Royal Charter draws a clear distinction between the role of the Trust – which determines the overall scope of the BBC’s services and sets its standards – and that of the BBC Executive – which runs the Corporation and decides what to broadcast and publish.

The Trust does not entertain every appeal submitted to it. It will normally hear appeals about the Executive’s decisions only if a complainant can show that they involved a potential breach of the BBC’s published standards, or that an operational decision has raised significant issues of general importance. The Trust is the final arbiter of which appeals it should consider. For the full information about the BBC Trust’s appeals procedures please visit:

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/regulatory_framework/protocols/2014/complaints_fr_work_ed_complaints.pdf

If you wish to submit an appeal you must write within 20 working days of receiving this reply, explaining why you wish to appeal. You can contact the BBC Trust at 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ, or by emailing trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk including reference number CAS-3414060-Y3SF9B.

Yours sincerely 

BBC Complaints

www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform at the BBC Complaints website http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints quoting any case number we provided.

BBC upholds “napalm bomb” footage-switching complaint – decision published on BBC website

The BBC has published a summary of the Editorial Complaints Unit’s finding upholding my complaint that the substitution of Syria footage between two August 2014 broadcasts breached BBC editorial standards for Accuracy.

The summary can be found on the BBC’s website here (screengrab below).

I am pursuing an appeal with the BBC Trust in respect of matters of BBC editorial policy and practice [1] which were not addressed by the ECU’s finding. Subsequent correspondence with the ECU and the BBC Trust around these and other points is hereherehere and here. The BBC Trust’s decision on these points is here (21 September 2015). 

The questions regarding the authenticity of the original footage which are referred to in the finding are discussed here.

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[1] These are the points raised in my review request of 16 June 2015 under the headings ‘Assessment of the BBC Complaints response’ (up to the end of the second bullet point) and ‘Further points for consideration of Editorial Complaints Unit’ (entire section).

UK charity which shares Syrian opposition “aims and objectives” benefits from Alan Kurdi tragedy

Update – formal complaints correspondence with the Charity Commission re: Hand in Hand for Syria: see here, here and here


Hand in Hand for Syria, the UK registered charity at the heart of the controversial 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children, is receiving all proceeds from a new fund established in honour of Alan Kurdi, the three year old who drowned along with his mother and brother as his family attempted to reach Greece from Turkey on 2 September 2015.

The Guardian reports that the Aylan Kurdi Fund was set up within 24 hours of the circulation of photographs of the boy’s body.  As of 9 September 2015 the fund had received over £50,000 in donations.

According to Saving Syria’s Children, Hand in Hand for Syria “helped set up” the largest refugee camp in Syria – Atmeh on the Turkish border.

In the documentary, two doctors working with Hand in Hand visit Atmeh and check up on hospitals run by the charity, including Atareb Hospital, Aleppo, where the BBC Panorama team filmed the dramatic arrival of alleged victims of an incendiary bomb attack on a school playground in nearby Urm Al-Kubra.  These scenesfirst transmitted just as the UK parliament voted on military intervention in Syria – have become the subject of worldwide scepticism.

The UK Charity Commission’s website states that Hand in Hand for Syria exists for “the advancement of health or saving lives”.  Until July 2014 the Facebook banner of Hand in Hand’s co-founder and chairman Faddy Sahloul read “WE WILL BRING ASSAD TO JUSTICE; NO MATTER WHAT LIVES IT TAKES, NO MATTER HOW MUCH CATASTROPHE IT MAKES”.  The image was removed shortly after it was commented on publicly. [1] [2]

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Facebook banner of Hand in Hand for Syria’s co-founder Faddy Sahloul, deleted July 2014

Hand in Hand for Syria’s original three-star logo is plainly based on the flag adopted by the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council. In 2014 the charity removed the stars from its logo.

Also on Hand in Hand’s executive team is Dr Rola Hallam, one of the two medics featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.  The documentary tells us that “Rola’s family is from Syria and she lived here as a child.  Now she’s an intensive care doctor in London, specialising in paediatric medicine.”

On 30 August 2013, the day after the BBC’s initial report on the alleged Aleppo incendiary bomb attack, Dr Hallam appeared on BBC’s Newsnight programme expressing her profound disappointment at parliament’s rejection of a military strike against Syria.

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Dr Rola Hallam, Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013, being interviewed as alleged victims from an incendiary bomb attack on a school in the village of Urm al-Kubra arrive (Panorama Saving Syria’s Children, BBC One, 30 September 2013, http://bit.ly/1wO3p2w)

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Dr Hallam: “I just feel that the world has failed Syria for the last two and half years and now is the time to act” (Newsnight, Syria crisis: Doctor criticises Miliband over MPs’ vote, BBC Two, 30 August 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23909554)

Dr Hallam’s father is Dr. Mousa al-Kurdi.  According to a 2013 article by Dr Saleyha Ahsan – the other Hand in Hand for Syria medic featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ [3] – Dr al-Kurdi is “involved politically with the Syrian National Council”. [4]

In an interview for Al Jazeera Dr al-Kurdi passionately advocates for the Syrian National Council’s recognition as the “sole representative” of all Syrians and relates how, following his address to the Friends of Syria summit in Istanbul in 2012 – attended by Hillary Clinton – he personally told Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu “You’re not doing enough” and demanded of Professor Davutoğlu and several other foreign ministers present, including the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland, “either you defend us or you arm the Syrian Free Army to defend us – you have the choice”.

At a Save the Children event in London in November 2013 Dr Hallam stated that her father “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”. 

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Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, Dr Rola Hallam’s father, is interviewed on Al Jazeera soon after he addressed the Friends of Syria summit in April, 2012. (http://bit.ly/1gal7vh) Hillary Clinton, then US Secretary of State, is seen arriving at the meeting.

If Hand in Hand for Syria’s affiliations were not abundantly plain from the above, the Director of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit, Colin Tregear, has in the course of correspondence about ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ observed that:

“I think it was implicit that the charity was working in an area of Syria controlled by the opposition and would therefore be likely to share its aims and objectives (as opposed to supporting the Syrian government).” [5]

However, should it be required, there is further evidence.

A nurse seen treating the alleged incendiary bomb victims alongside Dr Saleyha Ahsan in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was subsequently photographed at Atareb Hospital wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic and ostensibly tending to the injuries of a child “rebel” combatant.  The web article which hosts the photograph overtly celebrates the fifteen year old’s supposed battle prowess[6]

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The nurse on the left appears at 31:17 in Saving Syria’s Children (http://bit.ly/1wO3p2w) in scenes filmed at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013. Dr Saleyha Ahsan is wearing the checked shirt.

http://on.fb.me/1LFSvrI

The same nurse appears to treat a child combatant in this image on a web page (http://slnnews.co/?p=2578) dated June 2014. She is wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic (the word “Hand” is plainly visible upon enlarging the image). Other images of the child are featured on this Facebook page http://on.fb.me/1LFSvrI.

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This site boasts of the supposed fighting prowess of fifteen year old “Mujahid Omar”.

It has been suggested that the Hand in Hand for Syria nurse appears to be of Central Asian, rather than Syrian, origin.  A January 2015 International Crisis Group Policy Briefing observes that “Growing numbers of Central Asian citizens, male and female, are travelling to the Middle East to fight or otherwise support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL or ISIS).” [7]

Many more questions about Hand in Hand for Syria are posed in a dossier compiled by peace activist Dr Declan Hayes and in two You Tube videos: Inside the BBC’s Uprising: Hand in Hand for Propaganda and WANTED: Evidence Hand in Hand for Syria is Really in the Business of Saving Lives. 

Notes

[1] This Facebook account has since been deleted.

[2] Mr Sahloul’s bloodthirsty sentiments were “liked” on Facebook by Hand in Hand for Syria co-founder Fadi Al-Dairi.  Mr Sahloul and Mr Al-Dairi are listed as Trustees of Hand in Hand for Syria on the Charity Commission website.

[3] Dr Ahsan is a former British Army Captain who served in Bosnia and now works as a freelance filmmaker, a medic and more recently as a BBC presenter.  Dr Ahsan is the subject of this complaint currently lodged with the corporation.

[4] “The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was set up six seven [sic] months after the uprising against the Assad regime erupted in March of 2011, was the biggest and most significant Syrian opposition group in exile until November 11, 2012, when it joined the broader National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.”  http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=48334

[5] BBC Editorial Complaints Unit Provisional Finding, 23 April 2014 (see p10 of download).

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

[7] It has been suggested that other individuals who feature in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and in other footage from Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013 also appear to be of Asian, rather than Syrian, origin.