More puzzles about BBC’s “Saving Syria’s Children” documentary

OffGuardian has produced this review of matters raised in my recent post (http://bit.ly/1MjE2TJ) about Saving Syria’s Children cameraman, “director” and producer Darren Conway’s appearance at the Frontline Club a year ago, making several points with more clarity than I had in my original piece.

OffGuardian

by BlackCatte

This is our second look at the work of Robert Stuart, concerning the BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children. (go here for our first instalment). When did the alleged chemical attacks actually occur? Why do accounts of the timing differ so widely? And why did producer Darren Conway become defensive and incoherent when asked one simple question?

The BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children began as quite low key coverage of the work of two British doctors (Rola Hallam and Saleyha Ahsan) visiting the Atareb hospital in Aleppo on August 26 2013. But then – the story goes – completely by chance, while they were filming, there was an incendiary attack (originally described as a “chemical attack”), supposedly by the Syrian government, on the Urem Al-Kubra school 8 or 9 miles away, fortuitously permitting the film crew to get dramatic footage of the victims arriving…

View original post 1,533 more words

Outbreak of journalism at the Frontline Club?

See also this discussion on the website OffGuardian.

Last Thursday marked one year since I asked Saving Syria’s Children cameraman, director and producer Darren Conway, OBE, to clarify precisely when the incendiary bomb attack on a school playground in Urm al-Kubra, Aleppo on Monday 26 August 2013 – scenes from the aftermath of which had formed the climax of his BBC Panorama documentary – had occurred.

The exchange, during Q&A at the end of an evening’s retrospective of Conway’s career hosted by London’s Frontline Club, was captured on mobile phone footage and went as follows:

RS: Just one small point of fact about the Panorama programme, because there’s been some variation in what time it actually happened, this playground bomb, the BBC say 5.30 at the end of the school day, Human Rights Watch in their report say it was midday and Violations Documentation Centre in Syria say 2pm and one of their correspondents said they heard about it at 3pm, so what time of day did this actually happen?

DC: It was the end of the day, yeah, I mean I don’t remember the exact time but we were there, we only arrived in the afternoon, we were at that hospital on our way out of the country for about I don’t know, 20, 30 minutes before it happened and then it became dark not long after, so I would say it was around, I don’t know, between three and five, something like that.

RS: But you can’t… give any reason why there’s so much discrepancy in the various…

DC:  I don’t… there’s lots of discrepancy about that I mean, ah, you know I, you, it, er we could get into that for hours, I mean it kind of makes me sick to my stomach to [think?] people would even believe that, er, that happens, but that do not happen, but I mean there’s a, there’s a, there’s a big machine that works, erm, that works for the sort of regime as well that tries to sort of er, you know, discredit this sort of stuff so you know I don’t want to really talk about that. [1]

As the increasingly acerbic tone made plain, this was – as anticipated – another spacesuit moment, differing from that I’d experienced a year previously when questioning another key Saving Syria’s Children player only in the degree of polish of the response.

The Frontline event, part of its Reflections strand which has included interviews with Jon Snow, John Simpson, Alex Thomson, Nick Robinson and John Pilger, was a mix of video clips and respectful questioning on the craft and life of a documentary filmmaker, taking in Conway’s work for the BBC in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and more recently with reporter Ian Pannell in Syria.

Conway spoke about learning his trade, his early assignments and expressed his aspiration to a Spielbergian style of storytelling, consciously structured for dramatic impact. [2]

The dramatic culmination of the interview itself was a montage of images from 2013’s Saving Syria’s Children, Conway’s most recent BBC project and quite clearly his baby. The segment ended in a scene of a distinctively-clad female incendiary bomb victim, her face smeared with burns cream, vehemently railing against Assad accompanied by her father and chorus of relatives, all overlaid with a melancholy Spanish guitar soundtrack. [3]

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Female alleged incendiary bomb victim and her “father” (they appear of similar age). Many questions surround this scene, not least the apparent recycling of the woman’s highly distinctive dress and scarf in scenes shot later the same day. 

This prompted a solemn question from host Vin Ray, Director of the BBC College of Journalism, on the decision to use music at such an emotionally charged point. Conway’s answer, along the lines of allowing the images to speak for themselves, didn’t divert into the questions of authenticity surrounding this scene or the alternate account of it that Ian Pannell had previously provided for BBC World Service audiences.

I’d prepared a list of questions to put to Conway but as the evening wore on it became clear that the event’s billing as “a cross between Desert Island Discs and This Is Your Life” was no understatement and that the proceedings were in no way congenial to journalistic challenge. It would have been poor form to attempt to solicit Conway’s views on:

  • The connections between the charity Hand in Hand for Syria, which featured centrally in Saving Syria’s Children, and the Syrian opposition [4]
  • The fact that a former commander in the Al-Tahwid Brigade, based in Aleppo in August 2013, and whom one might expect to enthusiastically exploit any crime committed by Assad’s forces, is adamant that the events depicted in Saving Syria’s Children did not occur
  • The observations that some of the hospital scenes – in particular the tableau of young males who begin writhing and groaning apparently on cue – seem highly unnatural, to the point of resembling – at best – a re-enactment of genuine events
  • The evidence that a 52 year old female Netherlands resident of Armenian heritage had participated in scenes shot at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 in the guise of an incendiary bomb victim, alongside alleged victims filmed by Conway
  • Why it should be that BBC Worldwide has been assiduously and selectively blocking all YouTube copies of Saving Syria’s Children while leaving many more recent editions of Panorama undisturbed
  • The identity of a western male who pops up in Conway’s footage, equipped with a camera and giving every appearance of stage managing events. (When questioned some months later, the programme’s editor Tom Giles confessed he had “no idea” who the man may be).

However the single question that remained after several sweaty crossings out and the involuntary nervous propulsion of a glass of diet coke between the feet of the rapt preceding row was perhaps key: exactly when did the “napalm bomb” attack of Monday 26 August 2013 happen?

Because as things stand there’s quite a choice.

If we believe a Human Rights Watch report (p12) it was “Around midday”. The same HRW report links to a Violations Documentation Center in Syria report (p4) which puts the time of the attack at 2pm, quoting activist Mustapha Haid who “heard rumours about a ‘chemical attack’” at 3pm.

Next in the six hour range on offer is Conway’s sole BBC colleague on ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, reporter Ian Pannell, who in BBC complaints correspondence has categorically stated that “The attack happened on the 26th of August at around 5.30pm at the end of the school day”.

Stretching the data set a further thirty minutes is alleged eyewitness Abu Yousef, mustering an impressive display of facial pyrotechnics in order to wrench from recollection his assessment that the alleged attack occurred sometime between 5.30pm and 6.00pm, “more or less”.

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Alleged eyewitness Abu Yousef: “5:30 to 6 in the evening… …more or less”

It’s unclear from Conway’s answer whether “between three and five” represents his assessment of when the alleged incendiary bomb attack on the school in Urm al-Kubra took place or refers to the point at which he became aware of events from his own perspective at Atareb Hospital, where alleged victims were transported and where Conway filmed them [5]. Atareb (Al Atarib) is several miles from Urm al-Kubra (Urem Al-Kubra).

If the former interpretation is assumed then Conway’s account appears somewhat out of step with Pannell’s firm “around 5.30pm, at the end of the school day””; if the latter, it would appear irreconcilable. [6]

As well as livestreaming its events on the internet, the Frontline’s practice is to upload the video to its website and YouTube channel shortly afterwards. Thus it was I waited to see if my awkward encounter with Conway would make the cut.

A year later I’m still waiting.

Just over a month after the event, on 20 November 2014, and again on 8 December, I emailed the Frontline’s then Programme Editor & Manager, Millicent Teasdale, asking when the video might be available. On 17 December Teasdale replied:

“A few edits have had to be made to the video for security reasons and I hope to have it online early next year.”

The explanation seemed odd. To my mind the discussion had had no bearing whatsoever on any security matters. Those who had attended with me agreed.

On 3 November I had also emailed the Frontline’s founder, Vaughan Smith, who I had recognised at the Conway event, informing him of some of my concerns regarding Saving Syria’s Children and pointing out the seeming discrepancy between Conway’s answer and the testimony of his colleague, Ian Pannell. Smith didn’t reply.

Then in March 2015, when it appeared clear that the video was never going to surface, the Frontline put this notice up on Conway’s Reflections 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.

To the best of my recollection, and that of others present, the only colleagues Conway mentioned in respect of his Syria work were Ian Pannell and Saving Syria’s Children’s credited “Fixer/Translator” Mughira Al Sharif, whom Conway very briefly referred to, calling him only “Mughi”. As detailed here, Al Sharif openly proclaims vehement pro-opposition sentiments on his Instagram account (see images below) and elsewhere.

Furthermore, as noted, the event was livestreamed on the internet. As Conway was undoubtedly aware of this, and of the expectation that the video would subsequently be published on the Frontline Club’s website, is it likely that he would he have risked putting colleagues “at further risk” by naming them?

Has an outbreak of journalism at the Frontline Club been quelled?

Picture1

Statement published on the Frontline Club website, March 2015

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The shy and retiring Mughira Al Sharif, Saving Syria’s Children’s “Fixer/Translator”, is seen driving Ian Pannell’s car in Darren Conway’s Panorama documentary. Images on Al Sharif’s Instagram account depict him bearing the standard of the Idlib Martyrs Brigade, relaxing with “some friends” in the armed opposition (uploaded 26 August 2013, the day of the alleged incendiary bomb attack) and jocosely celebrating the involvement of children in the Syrian conflict with captions such as “the youngest revolutionary” and “the formation of the special battalions” (the latter uploaded 27 August 2013, the day after Al Sharif had supposedly witnessed dozens of injured and dying children and teenagers at Atareb Hospital). Is this who the Frontline Club aims to protect by withholding video of Conway’s interview? 

Notes

[1] Improvements to this transcript gratefully received.

[2] One wonders whose decision it was to bestow upon Conway the odd credit of “director” of Saving Syria’s Children, a documentary.

[3] At 36:10 in Saving Syria’s Children. The music appears to be a piece of BBC stock, turning up again just two weeks prior to the Frontline Club event in BBC2’s Rwanda’s Untold Story (03:50 and 28:30).

[4] In December 2014 the Frontline Club hosted a fundraiser for Hand in Hand for Syria. Concerns regarding the organisation have been formally lodged with the Charity Commission.

[5] The relevant section of Saving Syria’s Children commences at 30:38 here.

[6] The suggestion that the metadata from Conway’s footage could resolve the question of precisely when the alleged attack took place was put to the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee in an appeal review request of 29 December 2014 (search for “metadata”). The question was dismissed (indeed, not even individually noted) towards the end of the ESC’s lengthy decision, as were nine other fresh points, on the grounds that they “had not been raised in her [the complainant’s] appeal, nor at Stages 1 and 2”.

BBC commits to responding to complaint in under 30,000 years

Below is the BBC Trust’s response to my request that it hear my complaint regarding BBC presenter Dr Saleyha Ahsan.

OK, so “10 December 29015” is a typo, but I think I may be excused an opportunistic jibe considering that the BBC’s response to my first complaint regarding Dr Ahsan limped in 48 or so working days after submission (the BBC’s stated aim for responding to “stage 1a” complaints is 10 working days after receipt) and, impressively, failed to address a single point I’d made.

Furthermore, BBC Complaints took a full two months to reply to my stage 1a complaint about Ian Pannell’s 2013 Aleppo “walking dead” report and an epic five months to respond to my stage 1b complaint about the re-editing of a 2014 Newsnight report which had originally included some of the same footage. (When I demanded extra time to escalate that complaint I was told that “complainants and the BBC should be put on an equal footing but it did not mean a ‘tit-for-tat’ approach in adhering to publicised deadlines”). In the event, my complaint against the BBC’s tat was (partially) upheld.

Another person who complained about Saving Syria’s Children endured delays of five and three months respectively to her stage 1a and 1b complaints, with “administrative error” cited on both occasions. Interestingly, the special treatment which the BBC appears to reserve for correspondents over this material is echoed by BBC Worldwide’s highly selective blocking of ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ on You Tube.


From: Trust Editorial (TrustEditorial@bbc.co.uk)
Sent: 21 October 2015 13:46:18
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you for your email of 15 October 2015 to the BBC Trust.

We note that BBC Audience Services have informed you that they are not going to respond to you further on your complaint as they do not believe that it raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation.

The BBC’s Editorial complaints procedure explains that the BBC may not investigate your complaint if it fails to raise an issue of breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines or is trivial, misconceived, hypothetical, repetitious or otherwise vexatious, or if you use gratuitously abusive or offensive language. You can find details of BBC’s Editorial complaints procedure here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/governance/complaints_framework/editorial.html.

The Trust does not adjudicate on every appeal that is brought to it, and we will now review your correspondence with BBC Audience Services to check that your appeal against their decision not to investigate your complaint further raises a matter of substance, in accordance with its usual complaints admissibility procedure, details of which can be found in the BBC’s Editorial complaints procedure.

The Trust’s Editorial complaints procedure explains that we will write to you with our decision on admissibility within 40 working days of the receipt of your appeal (i.e. by 10 December 29015), but we are usually able to do this sooner. We will also keep you informed if for any reason we meet with delay during this process.

If we decide that your appeal qualifies to be considered by the Trust, we will write explaining the process and setting out the timescale for taking your appeal. In considering whether or not an appeal qualifies for consideration, we may decide to take only part of the appeal, and consider only some of the issues raised.

If our conclusion is that your appeal, or any part of your appeal, does not qualify for consideration by the Trust, we will write and explain the reasons for that. If you disagree with our view then you may ask the Trust to review the decision by writing to us within 10 working days of the date on which you received our response.

If we decide your appeal qualifies for consideration, or if you challenge the decision of the Trust Unit not to proceed with some or all aspects of your appeal, the matter will be considered at the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee’s next monthly meeting. We aim to provide you with their final decision within 80 working days of our decision to accept your appeal or challenge.

Please note that if the Trust agrees with you that your complaint should be investigated further, it will ask the Executive to address your complaint again at stage 1 and provide you with a further response. If the Trust does not agree with you, its decision on this matter is final and your complaint will be closed.

Yours sincerely

Kirsty

Kirsty Clarke
Complaints Adviser

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

“Recent” barrel bomb footage – correspondence with Channel 4 News Managing Editor

This post does not directly relate to BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ which remains the focus of this blog. 

See also: IPSO rejects Telegraph “new” “barrel bomb” footage complaint

The below correspondence relates to the Channel 4 News web article Syria: living under the horrors of barrel bombs in Aleppo published on 10 June 2015. 

I have received no reply to my email of 21 October 2015, in which I asked Mr Fraser how I might formally pursue a request that the text of the web article be amended to reflect the considerable uncertainty over the vintage of barrel bomb footage which Channel 4 News continues to describe as “recent”.

Should further evidence casting doubt on Channel 4’s claim be required, note the shot of fuse wick barrel bombs from 6 seconds in this video (see screengrab below), published on You Tube on 23 August 2012 – over a month earlier than the oldest video of this type of munition that I had previously identified in my correspondence with Mr Fraser. These munitions – here in the hands of opposition group Lions of Tawheed – are identical to those which feature in video described in the Channel 4 News web article as “footage of recent barrel bomb attacks” and by Mr Fraser (23 July 2015, below) as “new footage not seen before”.

Interestingly, it appears that the text of the Channel 4 News website is not regulated by any external body. Ofcom does not cover complaints about TV or radio station websites. Neither does such material fall within the remit of IPSO, the “independent regulator for the newspaper and magazine industry” (the person to whom I spoke at IPSO confessed this was “a grey area”).

As complaints to Ofcom regarding broadcast material must be made within 20 working days, it is also now no longer possible to pursue issues relating to the video report incorporated in the web article, which was shown on the Channel 4 News of 10 June 2015. As this report is not deemed to fall in the category of “video on demand” it is also not regulated by ATVOD (whose functions will be undertaken by Ofcom after 31 December 2015).

Scroll down for earliest correspondence 


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 21 October 2015 17:08:02
To: ed.fraser@itn.co.uk
Cc: news@channel4.com; jon.snow@itn.co.uk; krishnan@channel4.com; cathy.newman@itn.co.uk; alex.thomson@itn.co.uk

Dear Mr Fraser

Thank you for your reply of 14 October.

It seems you now concede that there is doubt over the date of the footage in question (albeit the phrase “precise dates” does rather suggest that the uncertainty is perhaps over a matter of days rather than, as is likely, years). [1]

I would be grateful if you could explain why, in addition to a note in your archive, it is not possible for a caveat to be included in the Channel 4 News web article itself. If I wished to formally pursue a request to this effect, how would I proceed?

[1] In a post of 8 July 2015 “respected weapons blogger” Brown Moses describes how in late 2013 “there was a significant change in the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian military” away from the earlier designs which employed “crude wick fuses” (ie the type which features in your report) to a much larger design with three tailfins and a metal impact plate fuse. This design “appears to have replaced all earlier designs of barrel bombs across Syria”. The post goes on to note that in April 2014 “a new type of barrel bomb” which features “the addition of a gas cylinder inside the bomb” was used.

This seems to make it plain that the fuse wick design of barrel bomb which features in the footage described in your report as “recent” is indeed long redundant and at least two design stages earlier than at least one type which has more recently been used in Syria.


From:  ED.FRASER@ITN.CO.UK
Sent: 14 October 2015 14:21:31
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you for your emails of 24 September and 7 October 2015.

We have given this matter further consideration and note the point raised that you consider the footage shows an early design of barrel bomb and therefore you believe the footage was not recent.

We take your point seriously. It is clear you have a specific interest in the area being reported. The editorial team have been made aware of your views about the footage. We are always willing to listen to different perspectives and points that challenge what we report. This is a helpful part of the editorial process and we intend to mark the footage in our archive so that anyone seeing this footage is aware there was an issue raised questioning the precise dates when this footage was filmed.

We hope that you can also see the issue from our perspective. There are very difficult reporting conditions in Syria. We have recently reported from inside Syria when Lindsey Hilsum travelled with the permission to Damascus and some selected areas outside the capital but this is not a free reign to travel anywhere within this war torn country.  It must be noted we are not able to report from the ground in the normal way and thus you will understand determining the full facts presents many challenges that we work hard to overcome. We use best endeavours to ensure our reporting is accurate at all times.

Please continue to write to us if you believe that what is reported is open to question. Such input is very helpful for our editorial process and editorial decision-making.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Fraser

Managing Editor

Channel 4 News


From:  ED.FRASER@ITN.CO.UK
Sent: 12 October 2015 17:15:53
To: Robert Stuart

Mr Stuart

I will come back to you on this.

Ed Fraser


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 07 October 2015 12:14:25
To: ed.fraser@itn.co.uk
Cc: news@channel4.com; jon.snow@itn.co.uk; krishnan@channel4.com; cathy.newman@itn.co.uk; alex.thomson@itn.co.uk

Dear Mr Fraser

I would be grateful for a reply to my email of 24 September.

My opinion that the munitions in your broadcast appear to have fuses is shared by the author of the Telegraph article of 20 May 2015 (Report 3) who writes that this section of footage “shows an airman crouching inside a Syrian military helicopter, chatting to his neighbour as he lights the fuse of a barrel bomb”.

As I observe at footnote [2] of the attached PDF, a graphic attributed to the website of “respected weapons blogger” Brown Moses entitled “What is a barrel bomb?”states that “Early designs used fuse wicks”. This would seem a very strong indication that your footage shows an early design of barrel bomb and is therefore not “recent” as the Channel 4 News website continues to claim or “new” as you state below.

You write “I can assure you we take feedback seriously”. I trust you will demonstrate this by responding to my concerns now.

Yours sincerely,


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 24 September 2015 14:40:40
To: ed.fraser@itn.co.uk
Cc: news@channel4.com; jon.snow@itn.co.uk; krishnan@channel4.com; cathy.newman@itn.co.uk; alex.thomson@itn.co.uk

The material below was submitted as a PDF attachment

Dear Mr Fraser

Thank you for your response of 23 July 2015 to my complaint of 7 July.

For ease of reference I shall follow your numbering of the relevant reports:

You write:

The footage inside a helicopter seen in both reports 1 and 2 was recently identified as new footage not seen before and we have no reason to believe it is anything other than that. We have spoken with our expert in video verification from this region and he is firmly of this view.

This image is from 34 seconds in Report 2:

Picture1
http://www.channel4.com/news/barrel-bombs-syria-assad-aleppo-deraa-idlib-civilian-deaths (Report 2)

The munitions in the above scene appear identical to those in this video published on You Tube on 13 January 2013:

Picture2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZ7UZX2mUGQ (Published 13 January 2013)

Brown Moses, whom Channel 4 News describes as a “respected weapons blogger”, states here that the devices in the 13 January 2013 You Tube video “appear to be of a similar style to some of the ADIEDs shown in videos on my Youtube ADIED playlist”.

I have noted the videos from this playlist to which Brown Moses most likely refers [1], i.e. those which show munitions most closely resembling those in the 13 January 2013 You Tube video (and hence also resemble those in Channel 4 News’ Reports 1 and 2). The earliest such video on the playlist (video 29) was published on 10 September 2012:

Picture5
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1YgzazE6Xw&list=PLPC0Udeof3T7JqsCa586FSo7QoQYycP-1&index=29 (Video 29 in the Brown Moses ADIED playlist, published 10 September 2012)

The somewhat more slender munitions which appear in the 27 October 2012 You Tube video (Report 4) and at 1 minute 54 seconds in the al-Jazeera/Telegraph report (Report 3) are of the type which can be seen in videos 21-25 in the Brown Moses playlist. (Video 25 on the playlist contains the same shot of one of these slimmer munitions being ejected from a helicopter that is included in Reports 3 and 4). All five of these videos (21 – 25) were published on 26 October 2012.

Picture3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HkxIVXN9Ds (Report 4)

Picture4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4_NmRgsJAc&list=PLPC0Udeof3T7JqsCa586FSo7QoQYycP-1&index=21  (Video 21 in the Brown Moses ADIED playlist).

In a 22 December 2013 post on the Brown Moses blog, Richard M. Lloyd, Warhead Technology Consultant at Tesla Laboratories Inc., describes this more slender design as an “early barrel bomb”:

Picture5
http://brown-moses.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/syrias-barrel-bomb-technology-relative.html (Richard M. Lloyd: “early barrel bomb”)

A graphic attributed to Brown Moses’ blog featured in a February 2014 Associated Press article similarly describes this slimmer type of munition as an “earlier bomb design”:

Picture7 Picture8
http://news.nationalpost.com/news/shocking-video-shows-barrel-bomb-attack-on-syria-which-killed-at-least-11-including-children

If this (slimmer) type of munition, several videos of which were published on You Tube on 26 October 2012, is considered by Warhead Technology Consultant Richard M. Lloyd  as an “early barrel bomb” and by “respected weapons blogger” Brown Moses an “earlier bomb design”, then the (somewhat broader) munitions which are featured in Channel 4 News’ reports 1 and 2, videos of which type certainly date from 13 January 2013 and possibly from 10 September 2012, would seem to have an approximately equal, and quite possibly a stronger claim to the status of “early barrel bomb” and “earlier bomb design”. [2]

I therefore remain unpersuaded that the footage shot inside a helicopter which featured in the Channel 4 News report of 10 June 2015 is, as claimed in the caption of Report 2 , “recent”, and, as you claim in your reply to me, “new footage”.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/

[1]

Video 27 (Published 29 September 2012)

Video 29 (Published 10 September 2012)

Video 31 (Published 10 October 2012)

Video 32 (Published 12 October 2012)

Video 38 (Published 3 December 2012)

Video 43 (Published 31 December 2012)

Video 49 (Published 18 May 2013)

Video 53 (Published 12 October 2013)

[2] Note too that the graphic attributed to Brown Moses states that “Early designs used fuse wicks”; a Reddit post of 30 March 2015 similarly observes that “early barrel bombs had actual fuses that had to be lit by hand”. The munitions seen aboard helicopters in Reports 1, 2, 3 and 4 all appear to have fuses which are lit by crew members.


From: ED.FRASER@ITN.CO.UK
Sent: 23 July 2015 13:54:25
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you for taking the time to write to us regarding this broadcast on Channel 4 News.  I am now in a position to respond. I apologise for the slight delay in responding to your complaint which has only recently been brought to my attention.

There are a number of reports in issue here. The Channel 4 News/ Youtube report (report 1) concerned many matters relating to the conflict in Syria including the fact that troops of President al Assad were losing territory, barrel bombing by President al Assad’s troops on civilian areas and an interview about the reality of living under the threat of a barrel bomb. There was reference to an incident in May 2015 where a primary school was hit by a barrel bomb. Footage was also shown of fighting with the so-called Islamic State. Reference is also made to President Al Assad’s possible exile in Russia.

The report on the Channel 4 News website (report 2) was slightly different. The report included footage that was not voiced . The report is accompanied by written text about barrel bombing and concerns raised by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights and Amnesty International.

The footage inside a helicopter seen in both reports 1 and 2 was recently identified as new footage not seen before and we have no reason to believe it is anything other than that. We have spoken with our expert in video verification from this region and he is firmly of this view.

Neither report 1 or 2 uses the footage at 1:54 of the Telegraph report (report 3) or the footage on the Youtube report (report 4) that  you refer to. That is different footage so I can see where this confusion may arise.  On that footage our expert confirms your view that the other picture contained within the Telegraph item is old footage – which we believe we have previously used ourselves in the past.

As for the wording in report 1 the use of the word “response” referred to the words immediately preceding: “ the government which has been rapidly losing territory”. The footage showed how the government responded to losing territory – by barrel bombing.  The report was an examination of the broad tactic of barrel bombing.  While specific incidents were described, the thrust of the report as a whole was to describe the tactics used and the fear which barrel bombs instil in populations in rebel held areas. However we note the point made about the wording and recognise that, with hindsight , it may have been preferable to preface the word “response” with the word “usual” or “typical” to make this clearer.

We are grateful to you for your communication. Our editorial team have been made aware of your concerns.

On behalf of Channel 4 News I can assure you we take feedback seriously.

Yours sincerely

Ed Fraser

Managing Editor

Channel 4 News

ED FRASER
MANAGING EDITOR, CHANNEL 4 NEWS

200 GRAY’S INN ROAD
LONDON
WC1X 8XZ
UNITED KINGDOM
T +44 207 430 4257
E ED.FRASER@ITN.CO.UK
www.channel4.com/news


From: ED.FRASER@ITN.CO.UK
Sent: 16 July 2015 16:20:32
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

I apologise for the delay in responding to you.  We shall investigate this matter and come back to you.

Best wishes

Ed Fraser

ED FRASER
MANAGING EDITOR, CHANNEL 4 NEWS

200 GRAY’S INN ROAD
LONDON
WC1X 8XZ
UNITED KINGDOM
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www.channel4.com/news


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 15 July 2015 10:20:36
To: news@channel4.com
Cc: jon.snow@itn.co.uk; krishnan@channel4.com; cathy.newman@itn.co.uk; alex.thomson@itn.co.uk; lindsey.hilsum@itn.co.uk

Dear Sir or Madam

I am very surprised to have received no response to my email of 7 July (below).

When I used this email address to contact Channel 4 News on a separate matter in January 2014 I received a reply from the Managing Editor the same day.

Please treat the below as a formal complaint and kindly acknowledge receipt.

Yours faithfully

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 07 July 2015 22:27:02
To: news@channel4.com
Cc: jon.snow@itn.co.uk; krishnan@channel4.com; cathy.newman@itn.co.uk; alex.thomson@itn.co.uk

Syria: living under the horrors of barrel bombs in Aleppo, Channel 4 News, 10 June 2015 

Dear Sir or Madam

I wish to raise concerns regarding the above Channel 4 News report.

The first video on the Channel 4 News webpage above is captioned “amateur footage of recent barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo and Deraa”. At 34 seconds there is a shot of two men aboard a helicopter, one of whom appears to take a cigarette from the mouth of the other which he uses to light the fuse on a munition which they then both push overboard.

The same scene appears at 23 seconds in the second, longer report on your webpage, at the conclusion of the following narration:

“Sweets for the Syrian rebels yesterday after they drove out Bashar Al Assad’s troops from the Brigade 52 base in Deraa. It’s another setback for the government which has been rapidly losing territory. Syrian air force video online shows the response: they drop four barrel bombs, which hit not only rebel positions but civilians.”  

This clearly indicates that the scenes of the two men pushing the munition out of the helicopter took place shortly after the “rebel” victory in Deraa, which you inform viewers occurred on Tuesday 9 June 2015, and to which the images you show were “the response”.

A portion of the same footage of the same two men is included at 27 seconds in video “obtained by Al Jazeera” embedded in a Daily Telegraph article of 20 May.

However, another portion of the Al Jazeera/Telegraph footage – the section at 1:54 where a crewmember uses a cigarette to light the fuse on a long, slender munition which is then ejected overboard – appears at 4:32 in this You Tube videowhich was published on 27 October 2012.

It would seem very likely that the Al Jazeera footage presented by the Telegraph is all of the same vintage, i.e. around two and half years prior to the Telegraph’s and to your report – and quite possibly even older.

Are you able to provide an assurance that the footage of the two airmen featured in your 10 June report is, as you claim, “recent” and specifically that it represents, as you claim, “the response” to the capture of the Syrian army’s Brigade 52 base on Tuesday 9 June 2015?

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/

Dr Saleyha Ahsan: appeal to BBC Trust

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.


Dear Sir / Madam

Reference: CAS-3414060-Y3SF9B

I wish to appeal against BBC Complaints’ decision on my Stage 1b complaint regarding BBC presenter Dr Saleyha Ahsan, notably with reference to potential breaches of the Geneva Convention committed by Dr Ahsan in publishing on Facebook photographs of a captive in the 2011 Libya conflict.

Picture39prisonerblocked

Picture40prisonerblocked

In addition to the observations on the Geneva Convention made by former BBC legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg referenced in my Stage 1a and Stage 1b 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”

International human rights lawyer Dr Curtis Doebbler has provided this Memorandum of Law outlining the basic international law protecting civilians and prisoners from acts exposing them to public curiosity. Dr Doebbler states in conclusion:

To pursue the responsibility of an individual it is necessary to show that the individual not only knew of the action but knew or should have known of the possible consequence that it would subject a civilian or prisoner to public scrutiny and/or ridicule. This element of mens rea must always be accompanied by an actus reus or action covered by the law.

With regard to Dr Doebbler’s remarks, please note the privately made observation of a former army officer that, as a British army officer, Dr Ahsan would have received extensive and comprehensive training on the workings of the Geneva Convention, especially in respect of the treatment of prisoners. This would appear to make it unlikely that Dr Ashan would have been unaware of her responsibilities in this regard, whether at the time a serving officer or not. Note too that another of Dr Ahsan’s Facebook page states “She has also completed a LLM [Master of Laws] in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Essex University”.

As I observed in an email to the Trust, all of Dr Ahsan’s Libya photographs were removed from her Facebook account shortly prior to 10 September 2015. (For instance, see the original locations of the two images above here and here). Please note the collection of screengrabs here which demonstrates that all the images I refer to in my previous complaints were viewable on Dr Ahsan’s Facebook account in April this year. [1] I can also provide screengrabs of Dr Ahsan’s original posts of the images of the captive which demonstrate that his face was visible in them.

With respect to Dr Ahsan’s association with the organisation Hand in Hand for Syria [2] please note that the Charity Commission’s Investigations Monitoring and Enforcement department confirmed on 23 September 2015 that it is to consider a number of concerns which I have formally raised.

Yours faithfully

Robert Stuart
https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/

[1] I have included several other of Dr Ahsan’s previously publicly viewable Libya images which I believe engage Section 15.4.5 of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines in respect of “the public’s perception of the impartiality, integrity or independence of BBC output”.

[2] Concerns about Hand in Hand for Syria are summarised here.

fsfbbanner

Facebook banner of Hand in Hand for Syria co-founder and chairman Faddy Sahloul, deleted July 2014. The banner image was “liked” by Mr Sahloul’s fellow Hand in Hand co-founder, executive team member and trustee, Fadi Al-Dairi. See http://bit.ly/1hYNSMR

 

Nurse2

(L-R) Dr Rola Hallam, a Hand in Hand for Syria nurse and Dr Saleyha Ahsan, in a segment of BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ (http://bit.ly/1wO3p2w) filmed at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013. Dr Hallam is a member of Hand in Hand for Syria’s executive team and Dr Ahsan is described as volunteering with the organisation.

 

Nurse3

Hand in Hand for Syria nurse (white tunic) and Dr Saleyha Ahsan (checked shirt) in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, broadcast 30 September 2013.

 

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=331960330291532&set=pcb.331962803624618&type=1&theater

The Hand in Hand for Syria nurse who was filmed alongside Dr Ahsan by the BBC appears to treat a child combatant in the distinctive setting of Atareb Hospital in this web image dated June 2014 (http://slnnews.co/?p=2578). The word “Hand” is plainly visible on the white tunic upon enlarging the image. Further highly shocking images of the same child and other children attached to the same militia unit are here http://bit.ly/1gXfYYt

 

1911062_301537436667155_696021834_o

Further highly shocking images of the same fifteen year old child (variously identified as ‘General Omar Nasser Al Khalidiya’, ‘General Omar Nasser field commander’, ‘General Omar son of the martyr Nasser’ and ‘Child Mujahid Omar’) and other children attached to the same militia unit are here http://bit.ly/1gXfYYt

Guardian “barrel bomb” caption “clarified”

Please note this post does not directly relate to BBC Panorama “Saving Syria’s Children” which remains the main focus of this blog.   


The Guardian has responded to my complaint about its 12 August 2015 report Syrian civil defence group accuses Assad of napalm attack near Damascus.

The report originally contained an image of what appeared to be an opposition “Hell Cannon” mortar device accompanied by the caption: “An unverified photo of an unexploded barrel bomb alleged to contain napalm gel.”

The caption has now been “clarified” to read: “An unverified photo of an unexploded gas cylinder alleged to contain napalm gel”.

Screengrabs of both versions are below.

With regard to my referenced observations on the violent and partisan character of the Syrian Civil Defence/White Helmets, the Guardian responds that this “is clearly a matter of dispute”.


From: rory.foster@guardian.co.uk on behalf of Readers’ editor (Guardian) (guardian.readers@theguardian.com)
Sent: 12 October 2015 10:40:25
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

That caption has been clarified to state that the picture is “An unverified photo of an unexploded gas cylinder alleged to contain napalm gel”.​ As I understand it, the Syrian army is also known to have used gas cylinders in its barrel bombs –

https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2015/07/08/a-brief-open-source-history-of-the-syrian-barrel-bomb/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/05/syrias-circle-of-hell-barrel-bombs-in-aleppo/

As for the earlier change, while the line saying the Syrian Civil Defence is “aligned to the opposition” was removed from the body of the article, it remains in the footnote along a line saying the SCD argues that it is not. It is clearly a matter of dispute, and I think that is made clear by the wording of the footnote.

​Regards

Rory Foster​

Guardian Readers’ editor’s office


Original caption, August 2015Picture1before2

“Clarified” caption, October 2015Picture1after2

Opposition “Hell Cannon”

20140531145439

Complaint to Guardian readers’ editor re: “unexploded barrel bomb”

Please note this post does not directly relate to BBC Panorama “Saving Syria’s Children” which remains the main focus of this blog.   

Update 12 October 2015: the Guardian readers’ editor has responded

From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 07 October 2015 16:07:44
To: guardian.readers@theguardian.com 

Dear Mr Elliott,

I wish to complain that the above print and web article breaches the Guardian News & Media’s Editorial Code, which states (p8):

“The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures”.

I. An image in the article is captioned “An unverified photo of an unexploded barrel bomb alleged to contain napalm gel.”

As several comments below the online version of the article note [1] the image in fact quite clearly shows an opposition “Hell Cannon” mortar device. Numerous images [2] and videos [3] of these munitions, which are fashioned from domestic cooking gas canisters, in the hands of opposition fighters in Syria can readily be found online.

II. A correction to the web article states:

This article was amended to [sic] 13 August 2015 to remove a description of the Syrian Civil Defence as “aligned to the opposition”. The SCD argue that they are a neutral organisation and not aligned to any political group.

Rick Sterling, co-founder of Syria Solidarity Movement, observes [4]:

White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria.  Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

Sterling adds:

The trainees are said to be ‘nonpartisan’ but only work in rebel-controlled areas of Idlib (now controlled by Nusra/Al Queda) and Aleppo.

The White Helmets work primarily with the rebel group Jabat al Nusra (Al Queda in Syria). Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda.

But White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.

Numerous images and videos posted online make shockingly and abundantly plain the partisan and non-peaceful character of the Syrian Civil Defence/White Helmets. [5]

I suggest therefore that the amendment of the original, accurate, description of the Syrian Civil Defence as “aligned to the opposition” also breaches the Guardian Editors’ Code in respect of accuracy.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart
https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/

[1]

http://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/57434207

http://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/57435927

http://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/57440161

http://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/57437178

[2]

http://russia-insider.com/en/who-genuine-about-fighting-terrorism-syria-and-who-are-terrorists/ri9338

https://ingaza.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/latest-nato-backed-terrorists-mortar-and-rocket-attacks-on-damascus-aleppo-foua-kafarya/

http://www.globalresearch.ca/masters-of-black-propaganda-the-bbc-is-barrel-bombing-night-and-day/5383051

[3]

https://thewallwillfall.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/syria-welcome-to-hell/

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ac6_1439473586

[4]

http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/04/seven-steps-of-highly-effective-manipulators/

[5]

http://m.liveleak.com/view?i=fd8_1430900709 – “Syria – So-called “White Helmets” facilitate an al Nusra execution”

https://youtu.be/d-gfgqi45pI?t=15m54s – “White Helmets” carrying weapons (15:55 and 17:05, still images here http://on.fb.me/1hrYO59 and here http://on.fb.me/1X6gHrd)

https://youtu.be/DE6yIIzxaBE?t=10m22s – Haj Abu Ahmad of the Civil Defence Force is translated as follows:

(From 10:23) “Glad tidings have reached us in Jisr al-Shghor on the hands of our mujahedeen brothers, may Allah strengthen them and make them steadfast on the correct way, and soon Insha’Allah the strongholds of the Assad regime in Latakya and Damascus will be liberated”. (Still images here http://on.fb.me/1EtnlBF and here http://on.fb.me/1X6iQTL).

(From 11:11) “Now we secure the families and transfer them to a safe place, outside of Jisr al-Shughor and we also search for injured civilians, as for the dead bodies, we put them in bodybags after identifying them so we can send [news of them] to their families. Finally we collect the bodies of the Shabiha (Assad regime militia) and throw them in the trash.” (Still image here: http://on.fb.me/1FcDMNw).

https://youtu.be/cs75QuGSaGg?t=6m3s – “White Helmet” gives victory sign over corpses of presumed Syrian government forces members (6:07, still image here http://on.fb.me/1O3SRWI).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkGszvFrf-8 – “White Helmet” jubilantly waving black flag of Jabat al Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) (35 seconds, still image here http://bit.ly/1OY8BOE).

BBC Trust: “no requirement for re-edited material to be flagged to the viewer”

The BBC’s Trust Unit has confirmed that there is “no requirement for re-edited material to be flagged to the viewer” and defended the corporation’s lack of “a formal policy obliging it to supply the source of substituted material on request”.

An earlier BBC Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) finding had upheld my complaint that the swapping of Syria footage between two August 2014 broadcasts had breached BBC accuracy standards.

The new comments, reproduced in full below, were made by Trust Adviser Leanne Buckle in a rejection of my further complaint to the Trust about the ethics of substituting footage without acknowledgement and the BBC’s refusal to identify the source of the substituted images.

In earlier correspondence, ECU Director Colin Tregear had stated imperiously:

You have been given an explanation as to why the footage was changed; there is no reason why the audience should be made aware that any such editing has taken place; and BBC News is under no obligation to tell you the source of the substituted images which were broadcast.

After expressing my astonishment at these remarks Mr Tregear replied:

In response to your comment about the paragraph in my email which you found “astonishing”, I can only say the point I was making was that there is no formal policy which obliges BBC News to inform viewers that footage has been changed or to confirm when asked the source of material used.  It is a matter for BBC News to decide whether to provide that information.

In my subsequent (“Stage 2”) complaint to the ECU I had asked Mr Tregear to consider:

How your remarks of 26 May 2015 sit with the BBC’s remit as a public service broadcaster, funded by British license fee payers.

How the BBC’s lack of a formal policy obliging it to inform viewers a) that news footage has been changed and b) when requested, of the source of substituted material sits with the BBC’s remit as a public service broadcaster, funded by British license fee payers.

On these points the Trust Unit, which represents Stage 3 of the BBC complaints process, now writes:

The Trust Adviser confirmed that as a rule there would be no requirement for re-edited material to be flagged to the viewer and agreed with the ECU that the decision to do so did not engage the editorial guidelines.

Finally the Trust Adviser noted the complainant’s query as to how it could be consistent with the BBC’s remit as a public service broadcaster for there not to be a formal policy obliging it to supply the source of substituted material on request. The Trust Adviser noted from her review of the correspondence that the complainant now knew where the substituted images came from and when they were first broadcast on the BBC. The Trust Adviser did not consider that the absence of a formal policy on the matter was an indication that the BBC was not accountable to its audiences nor did she consider that it was a matter that engaged the editorial guidelines.

At Stage 2 I had also asked Mr Tregear to clarify the criteria of “taste and decency” which BBC Complaints had previously invoked as grounds for substituting the Syria images. On this the Trust Unit now states:

The Trust Adviser considered these were generally matters of editorial discretion and did not engage the guidelines…

She noted also that the replacement images depicted an incident of a similar nature to the attack discussed in the commentary. The Trust Adviser did not consider there to be any issues which engaged the guidelines beyond those already dealt with in the ECU finding.

The BBC Trust Unit’s decision in full is below.


BBC Trust
British Broadcasting Corporation
180 Great Portland Street
London W1W 5QZ

T. 020 3214 4994
bbc.co.uk/bbctrust

Mr Robert Stuart
By email:

Our Ref: 3490798

21 September 2015

Dear Mr Stuart

BBC News Channel, “Syria Vote: One Year On”, 30 August 2014

Thank you for writing to the BBC Trust. I am responding to your appeal of 11 August 2015. You appealed to the Trust about the re-editing of an item for the News Channel which had first been broadcast on the previous evening’s Newsnight on BBC Two. You considered it was unethical not to have advised the audience that an edit had occurred and the reasons for it. You also say that the BBC should have supplied the source of the substituted images when asked.

I am sorry to send a disappointing response, but I have assessed your complaint and do not intend to put it before Trustees. The detailed reasons for my decision are in the following annex. In the second annex are relevant sections of the BBC’s complaints procedures and the Charter and Agreements which you may find helpful.

If you disagree with my decision, you can ask the Trustees to review it by contacting the Complaints Adviser, at trust.editorial@bbc.co.uk or at the above address, by 6 October 2015. Your request must be in one document and in fewer than a thousand words. Trustees will only exceptionally give more time, so if you do need longer, please reply giving your reasons as soon as possible.

If you do ask the Trustees to review this decision, that request as well as your original appeal letter and this letter will be put before Trustees. Your previous correspondence will be available to them. They will consider it in either their October or November meeting. Their decision is likely to be finalised by the following month and will then be given to you.

If the Trustees agree that your case has no reasonable prospect of success then it will not be taken further as their decision is final. The decision will be published in the next complaints bulletin. If the Trustees disagree with my decision, then your complaint will be passed to an independent Editorial Adviser to prepare appeal paperwork and you will be informed of the new time scale for your appeal.

Yours sincerely

Leanne Buckle

Senior Editorial Adviser

Annex 1 – BBC News Channel, “Syria Vote: One Year On”, 30 August 2014

The complaint concerned a report which was first broadcast on BBC Two Newsnight one year after the House of Commons voted against British military action in Syria. It was transmitted after the watershed and included graphic sequences of the immediate aftermath of a chemical weapons attack on civilians. The item was shown again on the News Channel and also broadcast around the world on BBC World News. The report was re-edited prior to being rebroadcast to remove those images which were considered unsuitable for pre-watershed viewing.

This was the commentary which ran alongside the sequence:

“By chance, just as MPs voted, these images of a chemical attack were shown for the first time”

The complainant said that the substituted images were from a different event or events but that the commentary accompanying the relevant sequences was unchanged.He asked whether the commentary was still accurate, given that it stated that the images were “shown for the first time… just as MPs voted”. He asked

  • why the change was made
  • why the viewer was not been told there had been changes
  • the source of the new images

At Stage 1 Audience Services said that the changes of pictures were editorially justified and did not change the journalistic integrity of the item. Audience Services explained that as the item was being shown to audiences elsewhere in different time zones, the BBC had “to be more careful in terms of taste and decency”.

At Stage 2 the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) noted that although the August 2013 date stamp which was on the original sequence did not appear on the substituted images, the narration remained unchanged. This continued to inform the audience that the footage was being shown for the first time on the evening of the vote in August 2013, whereas it was material which had first been broadcast three months prior, of a different alleged chemical attack, in Saraqeb, Northern Syria.

The ECU advised the complainant that the editing was done by the Newsnight team shortly after the programme went off air, and after the reporter had left the studio and that the failure to check the soundtrack was an editorial oversight. The ECU said that the substitution of the pictures would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the matters under discussion and there had been no intention to mislead. Nevertheless the audience for the News Channel version were given the impression they were seeing footage of an attack which was being shown for the first time just before MPs voted, and thus the ECU decided that the item had breached the accuracy guideline.

The ECU published the following finding on the BBC’s corrections and clarifications page:

News Channel, 30 August 2014: Finding by the Editorial Complaints Unit

Complaint
The channel re-broadcast an item about the first anniversary of the Commons vote against military intervention in Syria, originally shown in the previous evening’s edition of Newsnight. A viewer complained that footage of an attack on Syrian civilians (the authenticity of which he has questioned in another context) had been replaced in the item as re-broadcast by footage of an earlier incident. As the presenter said the footage in question had first been broadcast “just as MPs voted”, the result was misleading to viewers.

Outcome
After coming off the air, the Newsnight team had replaced the original footage with less graphic footage of a different incident, with a view to making the item more suitable to be re-shown before the watershed. However, the soundtrack was not checked, and it was not noticed that the substitution rendered the presenter’s comment inaccurate. The result was inadvertently misleading to viewers of the item as re-broadcast.
Upheld

Further action
The finding bas been discussed with the production team, and Newsnight’s internal compliance procedure has been amended to ensure that, in similar circumstances, the duty editor will view any picture recuts prior to approving the script.

Appeal

The complainant appealed to the BBC Trust on 11 August 2015. He asked Trustees to consider the following outstanding points:

  • what criteria did the BBC apply in determining the “taste and decency” of images
  • what criteria did the BBC apply to the images which were substituted in place of those deemed unsuitable.
  • why was the BBC not obliged to inform viewers when it had substituted material
  • why is the BBC not obliged to provide the source of substituted material when asked

Decision of the Trust Adviser

The Trust Adviser decided that the complainant’s appeal did not have a reasonable prospect of success.

The Trust Adviser noted that the substance of the complaint had already been dealt with by the finding of the Editorial Complaints Unit that the item had breached the guideline on accuracy: in the version which was shown on the News Channel the audience was wrongly informed that the pictures they were seeing were being shown for the first time as MPs voted on military action against Syria, whereas they had in fact been shown three months previously.

The Trust Adviser noted the explanation provided to the complainant; namely, that it was human error that the Newsnight team did not consider the commentary when the original sequence was replaced with images considered more suitable for a pre-watershed audience. The Trust Adviser noted and agreed with the ECU finding that the substituted images would not have altered viewers’ understanding of the matters under discussion.

The Trust Adviser considered the complainant’s queries about how the BBC assessed images for “taste and decency”, and the criteria it used in determining which images were suitable for substitution. The Trust Adviser considered these were generally matters of editorial discretion and did not engage the guidelines. She noted that programme makers had access to guidance on the depiction of violence in news and current affairs output, which was cross-referenced in the section on Harm and Offence in the Editorial Guidelines and available online at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/page/guidance-violence-news/

She concluded that the programme makers appeared to have taken appropriate account of the guidance in making the decision to substitute a number of images. She noted also that the replacement images depicted an incident of a similar nature to the attack discussed in the commentary. The Trust Adviser did not consider there to be any issues which engaged the guidelines beyond those already dealt with in the ECU finding.

The Trust Adviser considered the complainant’s point querying why the audience wasn’t informed that the material had been edited and some of the images replaced. She noted the ECU’s observation that the issue did not raise a potential breach of the BBC’s editorial standards. She noted that it is standard practice for items to be reedited for any number of reasons and that this would not be an issue for Trustees unless the impact of the edit misled the audience in some way (as for example it was found to have done in failing to re-edit the commentary when the original pictures were replaced). The Trust Adviser confirmed that as a rule there would be no requirement for re-edited material to be flagged to the viewer and agreed with the ECU that the decision to do so did not engage the editorial guidelines.

Finally the Trust Adviser noted the complainant’s query as to how it could be consistent with the BBC’s remit as a public service broadcaster for there not to be a formal policy obliging it to supply the source of substituted material on request. The Trust Adviser noted from her review of the correspondence that the complainant now knew where the substituted images came from and when they were first broadcast on the BBC. The Trust Adviser did not consider that the absence of a formal policy on the matter was an indication that the BBC was not accountable to its audiences nor did she consider that it was a matter that engaged the editorial guidelines.

Taking this into account the Adviser considered Trustees would be likely to conclude that the appeal did not have a reasonable prospect of success. She therefore did not consider it was appropriate, proportionate or cost-effective to proceed with the appeal and did not propose to put it before Trustees.

Annex 2

The Trust is the last stage of the complaints process and everyone who works within the Trust Unit is outside the day-to-day operations of the BBC. We review the complaints that come to us to assess whether they should be put before the BBC’s Trustees for them to reach a final decision. We read the correspondence in each case and also review the relevant BBC content in order to make this assessment.

The Trust acts in the interests of all licence-fee payers and it would not be proportionate, appropriate or cost-effective to spend a good deal of time and money on cases that do not stand a realistic prospect of success.

For information about the complaints system – and in particular about how the BBC Trust fits in – this is the web link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/governance/complaints_framework/

All BBC output is required to meet the standards set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines. These are written by the BBC and are commissioned and approved by the BBC Trust. They are publicly available and can be found through this link: www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines. Where a complaint relates to a potential breach of the Editorial Guidelines, we will refer to the relevant Guidelines in our response.

The Trust’s Editorial Appeals procedure states that:

The Trust will only consider an appeal if it raises “a matter of substance”. [1] This will ordinarily mean that in the opinion of the Trust there is a reasonable prospect that the appeal will be upheld as amounting to a breach of the Editorial Guidelines. In deciding whether an appeal raises a matter of substance, the Trust may consider (in fairness to the interests of all licence fee payers in general) whether it is appropriate, proportionate and cost-effective to consider the appeal. [2}

For non-editorial complaints, the relevant procedures can be found through the link given above. However, in general, the Trust only considers appeals which raise “a matter of substance” and for non-editorial complaints this means appeals will only be considered which relate to “…significant issues of general importance”.

Again, the Trust operates in the interests of all licence-fee payers and will bear in mind whether it is appropriate, proportionate and cost-effective to consider the appeal.

The BBC’s complaints system has three stages. Complaints are answered at stage one by BBC Audience Services. Complainants who remain dissatisfied after this can request a further response at stage one. If they are still dissatisfied they may be able to escalate their complaint to stage two, where their complaint will either be answered by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit or by a senior manager within the relevant division. The third and final stage is an appeal to the Trust. Time frames are set throughout the complaints process and complaints that are made outside those limits will only exceptionally be considered.

Under the Complaints Framework, it is open to the BBC to decline to correspond further about a complaint. The BBC can do this at any stage if it considers the complaint is trivial, misconceived, hypothetical, repetitious or otherwise vexatious. It can also stop replying to an editorial complaint that does not raise an issue of a breach of the Editorial Guidelines. The complainant can appeal to the Trust if they consider the BBC is wrong to stop corresponding about their complaint.

Where a complainant appeals to the Trust in these circumstances, if Trustees agree that the BBC was wrong to close down correspondence, the complaint will be sent back to the BBC for a further response. It will remain open to the complainant to appeal again to the Trust once the BBC has finished responding.

The Royal Charter and accompanying Agreement between the Secretary of State and the BBC draw a distinction between the role of the BBC Trust and that of the BBC Executive Board, led by the Director-General. “The direction of the BBC’s editorial and creative output” and “The operational management of the BBC” are defined as duties that are the responsibility of the Executive Board under paragraph 38, (1)(b) and (1)(c).

These are important because they are intended to protect the BBC’s editorial freedom and independence. They mean that the BBC is entitled to make editorial decisions without the Trust’s intervention – and the Trust would only have a role if, for example, a complaint raised a matter that was a potential breach of the BBC’s editorial standards (as set out in the Editorial Guidelines).

Similarly, the BBC is entitled to make operational decisions without interference and the Trust would only have a role if the BBC was potentially in breach of any of its other commitments – for example, if one of the licence-fee funded services has not operated within the terms set out in its Service Licence.

A high proportion of complaints that reach the Trust are either about editorial and creative decisions or operational decisions. However, it is outside the remit of the Trust to consider those complaints. Examples of the kind of complaints that Trustees would not be able to consider are:

  • a particular programme should not have been made
  • a contributor was not a good guest for a programme
  • a complainant disagreed with the line of questioning taken by an interviewer
  • a complainant was upset that a scheduled programme was not broadcast

[1] Under the Charter and Agreement, the Trust has a role as final arbiter in appropriate cases, and must provide a right of appeal in cases that raise a matter of substance.

[2] For example, if an appeal raises a relatively minor issue that would be complicated, time-consuming or expensive to resolve, the Trust may decide that the appeal does not raise a matter of substance, and decline to consider it.

IPSO rejects Telegraph “new” “barrel bomb” footage complaint

This post does not directly relate to BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, which remains the focus of this blog. 

See also: “Recent” barrel bomb footage – correspondence with Channel 4 News Managing Editor

Below is an exchange with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) regarding the 20 May 2015 Telegraph article Bashar al-Assad’s airmen laugh as they drop barrel bombs on fellow Syrians.

The Telegraph article states “New footage has emerged showing Syrian aircrew using barrel bombs”. However as observers noted, and I pointed out (19 July 2015, below), one of the two relevant clips in the al-Jazeera report which formed the source of the Telegraph’s claim has been available on You Tube since 27 October 2012.

In rejecting my complaint (23 July) IPSO stated that I “do not appear to be in a position to dispute that the video shown had been newly obtained by al-Jazeera, or that other sections of the footage had been recently filmed.”

In my appeal of IPSO’s decision (30 July) I noted that the Telegraph had not claimed that the footage was “newly obtained”, but simply that it was “new”, i.e on a commonsense understanding that it was roughly contemporary with the Telegraph’s report, rather than being at least two and half years older.

Apart from a brief holding response (4 August) I heard no more from IPSO for over a month. In a further submission (8 September) I presented a case for believing that the other section of “barrel bomb” footage in the al-Jazeera report was at least as old, and possibly even older, than the section which had been available online since October 2012. [1]

I had no acknowledgement of this submission, however less than three hours later I received IPSO’s Complaints Committee’s decision not to re-open my complaint. The committee’s decision did not reference the question of the age of “the other sections of the footage” but was instead based on the fresh point that “the article referred to President Assad’s claim that no barrel bombs had ever been used by his forces” and that therefore the age of all of the footage “was not relevant to whether President Assad’s forces had ever used such munitions”. (Confusingly, the decision states that I had not disputed Assad’s assertion, perhaps an indication of the haste in which it was drafted).

[1] Further to the evidence I submitted to IPSO, a diagram entitled “What is a barrel bomb?” and which is attributed to the website of “respected weapons blogger” Brown Moses states that “Early designs used fuse wicks”; both of the relevant segments of footage presented by the Telegraph show munitions which appear to have fuses that are lit by crew members, adding to the likelihood that both sections of footage are of a similar vintage.


From:  Ciaran Cronin (Ciaran.Cronin@ipso.co.uk)
Sent: 18 September 2015 10:26:50
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart,

Thank you for your email.

We would firstly like to apologise that your email of 8 September was not properly acknowledged. You should have been sent a reply on that date stating that the Committee had already considered your request for review, that your email of that date was too late to be considered by the Committee, and that we would email you that decision in due course.

I should explain briefly how our process works. You confirmed by email on 30 July that you wanted the decision of IPSO’s Executive to reject your complaint to be reviewed by the Complaints Committee. That email also explained on what basis you wished the Committee to review your complaint. You were sent an acknowledgment email on 4 August confirming that the Complaints Committee had been asked to review your complaint, and that we would revert to you in due course.

At this point, the Committee were asked to consider your request for review, and were provided with a copy of your original complaint, the email of 23 July from IPSO’s Executive notifying you of its view that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the code, and your email of 30 July 2015 requesting a review of that decision. You subsequently received an email on 8 September informing you that your request for review had not been successful.

The purpose of a review is for the Committee to review the decision of IPSO’s Executive; this does not generally involve the consideration of new material that has not been seen by the Executive. As a result, even though your email of 8 September was out of time for consideration by the Committee, it would not have made any substantive different to their decision .

If you have any queries about this process, please do get in touch.

Best wishes,

Ciaran Cronin


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 17 September 2015 13:21:07
To: Ciaran.Cronin@ipso.co.uk (ciaran.cronin@ipso.co.uk)
Cc: xavier.bastin@ipso.co.uk (xavier.bastin@ipso.co.uk); telegraphenquiries@telegraph.co.uk

Dear Mr Cronin

Bashar al-Assad’s airmen laugh as they drop barrel bombs on fellow Syrians – The Telegraph, 20 May 2015.

Thank you for the Complaints Committee’s decision of 8 September below, declining to reopen my complaint about the above Telegraph article.

I note that this decision was issued less than three hours after my submission of 8 September (attached) wherein I had responded to IPSO’s Executive’s observation of 23 July that I “do not appear to be in a position to dispute that.. …other sections of the footage had been recently filmed” by presenting a case that the other relevant section of “barrel bomb” footage in the Telegraph’s report was at least as old, and possibly older, than that which I had previously demonstrated had been available on You Tube since 27 October 2012.

I received no acknowledgement of my submission of 8 September, which I appreciate was somewhat untimely.

I note too that the grounds for the committee’s decision no longer include the question of whether “other sections of the footage had been recently filmed” but are instead focussed on Assad’s claim that his forces have never used barrel bombs. (Confusingly, the committee’s decision states that I did not dispute Assad’s assertion. What would be the significance of my having done so? Perhaps this apparent error is an indication of the haste in which the committee’s decision was drafted).

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart


From: Ciaran Cronin (Ciaran.Cronin@ipso.co.uk)
Sent: 08 September 2015 10:21:26
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart,

The Complaints Committee has considered your complaint, the email of 23 July 2015 from IPSO’s Executive notifying you of its view that your complaint under Clause 1 (Accuracy) did not raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice, as well as your email of 30 July 2015 requesting a review of that decision.

The Committee acknowledged your concern about the publication’s claim that the video footage was new. However, the Committee noted that the article referred to President Assad’s claim that no barrel bombs had ever been used by his forces, an assertion that you did not dispute [sic]. Therefore, the Committee took the view that while the age of the footage would have been relevant to whether President’s Assad’s forces had recently used barrel bombs, it was not relevant to whether President Assad’s forces had ever used such munitions.

The Committee was, therefore, satisfied that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code, and it declined to re-open your complaint.

The Committee would like to thank you for giving it the opportunity to consider your concerns.

Kind regards,

Ciaran Cronin

Ciaran Cronin
Complaints Officer


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 08 September 2015 07:41:29
To: Xavier Bastin (xavier.bastin@ipso.co.uk)

Dear Mr Bastin

I wish to add a further observation to my email of 30 July.You stated in your July 23 response (below) that I “do not appear to be in a position to dispute that the video shown had been newly obtained by al-Jazeera, or that other sections of the footage had been recently filmed”.

As previously noted, I have demonstrated that the sequence at 1 minute 54 seconds (Section B, for ease of reference) in the al-Jazeera report contained in the Telegraph article, in which a crewman lights the fuse on a cigar shaped munition and ejects it overboard, dates from at least 27 October 2012.

The other section at issue is the first 47 seconds of the al-Jazeera report (Section A).Please note that the munitions which appear from 27 to 35 seconds in Section A are identical to those in a video published on You Tube on 13 January 2013. (As well as to those in Tweets cited in my last email).

Please note too that “respected weapons blogger” Brown Moses has stated that the devices in the 13 January 2013 You Tube video “appear to be of a similar style to some of the ADIEDs shown in videos on my Youtube ADIED playlist”.

I have noted the videos in this playlist to which Brown Moses most likely refers [1], i.e. those which contain munitions which most closely resemble those in the 13 January 2013 You Tube video (and Section A of the al-Jazeera report). The earliest such video on the playlist dates from 10 September 2012. [2]Notwithstanding this extra submission, I hope to hear back from the Complaints Committee at its earliest convenience. I am sure you will agree that a swift resolution to my complaint is important in order that any retraction or correction by the Telegraph remains timely.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/

[1]

Video 27 (29 September 2012)

Video 29 (10 September 2012)

Video 31 (10 October 2012)

Video 32 (12 October 2012)

Video 38 (3 December 2012)

Video 43 (31 December 2012)

Video 49 (18 May 2013)

Video 53 (12 October 2013)

[2] Videos 21-25 in the Brown Moses playlist include the munitions seen in Section B of the al-Jazeera report. (Video 25 in the list contains the same shot of the munition being ejected that is in Section B). All five videos were published on 26 October 2012.

In a 22 December 2013 blog post Brown Moses describes the Section B munitions as “early barrel bombs”. A graphic attributed to Brown Moses’ blog included in a February 2014 article by the Associated Press also describes the Section B munitions as an “early design”.

If the Section B munitions, videos of which were published online on 26 October 2012, are considered “early barrels bombs” and an “early design” by “respected weapons blogger” Brown Moses, these designations arguably must also apply to the Section A munitions, videos of which were published online over a month earlier, on 10 September 2012.


From: Xavier Bastin (Xavier.Bastin@ipso.co.uk)
Sent: 04 August 2015 08:53:12
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart,

Thank you for your email.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee has been asked to review the Executive’s decision about your complaint on the grounds you provided. We will revert to you in due course.

Kind regards,

Xavier Bastin


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 30 July 2015 13:35:11
To: Xavier.Bastin@ipso.co.uk; inquiries@ipso.co.uk

Dear Mr Bastin

Bashar al-Assad’s airmen laugh as they drop barrel bombs on fellow Syrians – The Telegraph, 20 May 2015

Thank you for your email of 23 July (below) containing the decision of the IPSO Executive to reject my complaint (attached). I wish to request that this decision be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee on the following grounds:

The decision states:

You said that it was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) to describe the footage referred to in the article as “new”. We note your position that some sections of the footage shown had been published some time ago. However you do not appear to be in a position to dispute that the video shown had been newly obtained by al-Jazeera, or that other sections of the footage had been recently filmed. The newspaper was entitled to report Al-Jazeera’s position on the footage, and the article’s description was not misleading.

The Telegraph article does not claim that the footage has been “newly obtained”, it claims straightforwardly that it is “new”. The difference in meaning is self-evident.

Neither does the Telegraph “report Al-Jazeera’s position on the footage”, it simply states that the footage was “obtained by al-Jazeera” and – as is perfectly plain from viewing it – that it “appears to have been shot on a mobile phone inside a Syrian helicopter”.

As you note, I have demonstrated that some of the footage described by the Telegraph as “new” (the scene at 1 minute 54 seconds in which a crewman ejects a munition) has been in circulation since at least October 2012 (see section at 4 minutes 32 seconds).

There is ground for believing that the very similar footage in the first 47 seconds of the al-Jazeera report is of the same vintage.

As noted by a commenter under the Telegraph article, all the footage shares the same “dated quality”. [1]

Moreover, the distinctive cigar-shaped munitions seen at 27 seconds appear identical to those in the 2012 footage, at 1 minute 54 seconds. There are claims that these munitions are in fact IEDs manufactured by the opposition which were captured and re-used by Syrian government forces:

https://twitter.com/2ndNewMoon/status/619561662601916416

https://twitter.com/2ndNewMoon/status/619562939683602432

https://twitter.com/2ndNewMoon/status/625891760984690688

https://twitter.com/KrasserF/status/619210061886410752

If it is the case that the munitions in both scenes were captured from “rebels” by Syrian forces in 2012 or earlier, then it would seem likely that the stock would have been depleted long before the al-Jazeera report was produced. [2]

I assume from the inclusion in the al-Jazeera footage (at 47 seconds onwards) of scenes from the site of a Syrian helicopter which crashed on 22 March this year that a connection is being made between this event and the footage of the aircrew shown in the report.

If the suggestion is that the footage shows the crew of the helicopter which crashed, then this is persuasively refuted by a commenter on another site (search for “JimBeam”) who points out that the crew members seen in the al-Jazeera video are quite different from those featured in (distressing) images and videos posted on Twitter of the captured crew of the crashed helicopter.

If the suggestion is that the footage was obtained from the wreckage of the helicopter, or from captured crewmembers, for example from retrieved mobile phones, then it seems odd that a portion of it has also been available online since October 2012.

If the suggestion is that the footage was obtained from the wreckage of the helicopter, or from captured crewmembers, and that some of it is roughly contemporary with the date of the crash, then it appears we are to believe that the crewmembers carried with them souvenirs of sorties spanning at least a two and a half year period.

None of the above possibilities or sceptical viewpoints were considered in the Telegraph’s report which instead chose to label the al-Jazeera footage straightforwardly as “new” (not “newly-obtained”).

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/

[1] Another observer expressly claims that the scene at 27 seconds in the al-Jazeera report (which a recent Channel 4 News report described as “the response” to a “rebel” operation on 9 June 2015) is “old”.

[2] One of the previously cited Twitter correspondents claims that the “material” seen at 27 seconds “was certainly years old”. This could be read either as a reference to the munitions or to the footage.


From: Xavier Bastin (Xavier.Bastin@ipso.co.uk)
Sent: 23 July 2015 16:20:07
To: Robert Stuart
Cc: telegraphenquiries@telegraph.co.uk

Dear Mr Stuart,

I write further to our earlier email regarding your complaint about an article headlined “Bashar al-Assad’s airmen laugh as they drop barrel bombs n fellow Syrians”, published by the Daily Telegraph on 20 May 2015.

On receipt of a complaint, IPSO’s Executive reviews it to ensure that it falls within our remit, and discloses a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of your complaint under the terms of the Code. Having considered the points you have raised in full, we have concluded that your complaint does not raise a possible breach of the Code.

You said that it was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) to describe the footage referred to in the article as “new”. We note your position that some sections of the footage shown had been published some time ago. However you do not appear to be in a position to dispute that the video shown had been newly obtained by al-Jazeera, or that other sections of the footage had been recently filmed. The newspaper was entitled to report Al-Jazeera’s position on the footage, and the article’s description was not misleading. Further, you did not contend that Philip Hammond’s comments had been mis-reported, and it was not inaccurate to use the tense he did. The newspaper was entitled to report the comments of Philip Hammond about the footage, and doing so did not raise a possible breach of Clause 1.

You are entitled to request that the Executive’s decision to reject your complaint be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. To do so you will need to write to us within seven days, setting out the reasons why you believe the decision should be reviewed. Please note that we are unable to accept requests for review made more than seven days following the date of this email.

We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider the points you have raised, and have shared this correspondence with the newspaper to make it aware of your concerns.

Best wishes,

Xavier Bastin

Cc Daily Telegraph

Xavier Bastin
Complaints Officer


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 21 July 2015 22:15:57
To: Lauren Hay (lauren.hay@ipso.co.uk)

Dear Ms Hay

Thank you for your email.

I do not know what al Jazeera may have claimed about the footage, only that the Telegraph presents it  as “new”.

I do not contend that the article misreports Philip Hammond. My point is that the inclusion of comments by a prominent politician describing President Assad’s alleged use of “barrel bombs” in the present tense reinforces the impression, plainly stated as fact elsewhere in the article, that the video footage is new.

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart
https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/


From: Lauren Hay (Lauren.Hay@ipso.co.uk)
Sent: 20 July 2015 12:49:12
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

I write further to our earlier email.

For the avoidance of confusion, can you confirm whether Al Jazeera has indicated that it had recently obtained the footage?

Can you also confirm whether it is your contention that the article mis-reports comments by Philip Hammond?

I look forward to hearing further from you within the next seven days.

Best wishes

Lauren Hay
Systems Handler


From: Mel Huggett (mel.huggett@ipso.co.uk)
Sent: 20 July 2015 09:55:21
To: Robert Stuart

Dear Mr Stuart

Thank you for contacting the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Your complaint is currently being assessed, and we will be in touch with you again shortly. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

Should IPSO decide that your complaint falls outside of our remit, or does not raise a possible breach of the Code, we will write to you to explain why and send a copy of your complaint and our letter to the publication.

Alternatively, if we decide that the concerns you have raised fall within our remit and raise a possible breach of the Code, and you have not previously exhausted the publication’s internal complaints procedures, a copy of your complaint and any other correspondence you have sent to us, including contact information, will be sent to the publication to provide it with the opportunity to resolve the matter directly with you.

A copy of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which is administered by IPSO, can be found at https://www.ipso.co.uk/IPSO/cop.html.

Please note, in addition, the following information about our confidentiality and data protection procedures:

Confidentiality: The system of self-regulation requires good faith on both sides. In order for us to be able to investigate complaints effectively, it is essential that neither party to a complaint, complainant or newspaper/magazine, publishes information which has been provided as part of the investigation – most notably correspondence – without the consent of the other party. Publication, without consent, may affect our ability to continue to deal with a complaint or may be considered when we reach a decision as to whether the Code has been breached. Material provided by both complainants and publications during an investigation must only be used for the purpose of the complaint to us. This will not generally prohibit the publication of any ruling by IPSO on the complaint.

Data protection: By pursuing the complaint, you consent to the processing of any personal data which may be provided for the purposes of dealing with your complaint.

Publication of decisions: Should IPSO’s Complaints Committee be asked, after an investigation of your concerns by IPSO, to decide whether your complaint raises a breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice, its conclusions will be published. You will be identified as the complainant, unless you have requested to be anonymous, and the Committee has granted the request.

Further information about complaining to IPSO, including a summary of the complaints procedure, can be found at: https://www.ipso.co.uk/IPSO/makeacomplaint.html.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely

Mel Huggett
Systems Handler


From: Robert Stuart
Sent: 19 July 2015 14:08:02
To: inquiries@ipso.co.uk (inquiries@ipso.co.uk)

Bashar al-Assad’s airmen laugh as they drop barrel bombs on fellow Syrians – The Telegraph, 20 May 2015

Dear Sir or Madam,

I wish to complain that the above print and web article breaches Clause 1 of IPSO‘s Editors’ Code of Practice, relating to Accuracy.

The article refers to “New footage obtained by al-Jazeera” in the subheading and states in the first paragraph that “New footage has emerged showing Syrian aircrew using barrel bombs”.

The Telegraph includes the al Jazeera footage in the online version of its article. However the section of the video commencing at 1 minute 54 seconds, in which a crew member uses a cigarette to light the fuse on a long, slender munition which is then ejected overboard, appears at 4 minutes 32 seconds in this You Tube video which was published on 27 October 2012.

At least part of the al Jazeera footage was therefore over two and half years old – and possibly even older – at the time the Telegraph article was published.

Further statements in the Telegraph article suggest that the al Jazeera footage is contemporary:

  • The inclusion of a quote from President Assad from February 2015 denying that his government uses “barrel bombs” indicates that the al Jazeera footage can be considered subsequent evidence countering this claim.
  • Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is quoted saying of the al Jazeera footage: “It shows the casual and indiscriminate way in which Syrian regime forces are dropping these horrific weapons out of helicopters onto civilians below. For months we have seen reports of barrel bombs hitting hospitals and schools, killing thousands.” The use of present tenses (“are dropping”, “have seen”) strongly indicates that the al Jazeera footage is to be understood as depicting current events.

Yours faithfully

Robert Stuart

https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/