Panorama issues statement on Saving Syria’s Children

BBC Panorama has issued a statement regarding its 2013 documentary ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.

The statement is in response to challenges made by film, television and radio producer Victor Lewis-Smith.

On February 21 Lewis-Smith was alerted by political blogger Daniel Margrain to the recent UK Column Insight programme Saving Syria’s Children – The Worst Case Of Fake News? (since deleted from YouTube – alternate copy here).

Lewis-Smith subsequently tweeted Panorama requesting a discussion about Saving Syria’s Children, placing his contract for a forthcoming BBC Radio 4 comedy pilot at stake.

After several hours of “omerta”, as Lewis-Smith described it, a reply eventually was forthcoming from the BBC News Press Team.

As I tweeted in reply, the Ofcom report cited by the BBC News Press Team was in no way a defence of the BBC’s material. Lewis-Smith was also unimpressed:

Shortly afterwards Panorama editor Rachel Jupp replied to Lewis-Smith promising a conversation:

However by Monday Jupp’s position had shifted, prompting Lewis-Smith to up his demand to the release of the Saving Syria’s Children rushes:

While waiting for Jupp to fulfil her second promise, Lewis-Smith and I spoke and shortly afterwards a proposal was mooted:

Monday came and went with no statement from Jupp.

At 15:08 on Wednesday 1 March, two days later than promised, Jupp’s statement finally appeared on Panorama’s Facebook page. Four hours later Lewis-Smith posted a video of his tearing up his BBC contract.

On 3 March Lewis-Smith announced that:

I have added my responses to Jupp’s statement (reproduced below) in the comments below the Panorama Facebook post

For Victor Lewis-Smith’s observations on Saving Syria’s Children see his Tweets & replies from 21 February onward.

Robert Stuart

Saving Syria’s Children – Panorama Statement

On 20th September, 2013, [1] Panorama broadcast “Saving Syria’s Children.” Travelling with British doctors, it sought to illustrate the devastating impact of the war on children. Filmed in the north of the country, the doctors witnessed the aftermath of the bombing of a school by a suspected incendiary device and experienced medical facilities constantly under attack – both war crimes under international law. Eleven people died in the incident and more than twenty were injured. The BBC subsequently returned to meet some of the children affected, who were still being treated for severe burns. Unicef now estimates that in total tens of thousands of children have been killed in the war in Syria. Human Rights Watch have documented the use of incendiary bombs by pro-government forces in Syria.

It remains an incredibly important piece of journalism, fearlessly reported by Ian Pannell and Darren Conway. It represents the very best of the BBC – reporting the facts, always with due impartiality. A handful of people have raised questions about the programme’s authenticity, including RT in 2014. The BBC complained to Ofcom about the RT report, and Ofcom found that RT had indeed breached rule 2.2 of the Ofcom code – which states that “Factual programmes of items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience.”

There were also exhaustive investigations by the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit and another by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee, which included evidence from burns specialists, witnesses and lawyers. They concluded the BBC had not been misled in any way and found no grounds in the complaint.

There remains absolutely no evidence that any part of the programme was fabricated and any such suggestion is offensive to the victims, medics and reporters. The programme illustrates all the best journalistic values which make us one of the world’s most trusted broadcasters.

Rachel Jupp,
Editor, Panorama


[1] Saving Syria’s Children was in fact first broadcast on 30 September 2013.


About Robert Stuart

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

20 responses to “Panorama issues statement on Saving Syria’s Children

  1. The Panorama footage is blatantly staged i.e: FAKE! How the BBC continues to think they can fool people I really don’t know.

  2. But they are continuing to fool people, while we are nothing more than some flies around their face! This statement from Jupp defies all argument, being backed up by ‘witnesses, burns specialists, and Ofcom – who astoundingly chose to condemn the whistleblowers on RT instead of the BBC.
    Meanwhile I’ve just seen David Nott, ‘going back to ‘Syria’ to see the young child he saved from death last November, when her family was killed in East Aleppo. SBS showed him then with a team of surgeons operating on people in a hospital which I think was the same one in Turkey that the ‘Napalm victims’ were sent to.
    These things are closely connected I think….

  3. well done Robert – the b*rsteds have nowhere to hide on this…

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  5. Paul Conroy

    Well done Rachel Jupp. Not only was the documentary in question journalism at its best, but showed the true horror of living under the Assad regime. As someone who has reported exstensively from Syria and witnessed first hand the slaughter I congratulate, DC, Ian Rola and Sal, as well as the whole Panorama team.
    On a secondary note I would challenge any of the armchair warriors to pop over to Syria and sample the delights of life there before making such sweepingly incorrect accusations.

    May I also add my sadness that Victor Lewis Smith has torn up his contract with the BBC, the world will be a much darker place now….
    Paul Conroy

    • William Heron

      I have been to Syria in the past and I had a wonderful time. I felt completely safe the whole time I was there. Are you the same Paul Conroy who has been pictured with the Al Qaeda terrorists who destroyed Syria or am I thinking of another Paul Conroy?
      BTW that was some of the worst acting and makeup I have ever seen. Honestly compared to some of the 50s Hammer horror movies that was pathetic acting. They looked like extras from Dawn Of the Dead.

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