Paste magazine: BBC Panorama Saving Syria’s Children is “a sham”



From: Robert Stuart
Sent: Mon 01/05/2017 09:50
Subject: Paste magazine: BBC Panorama Saving Syria’s Children is “a sham”

FAO Fraser Steel, Head of Editorial Complaints, BBC

Dear Mr Steel

In our previous correspondence regarding my complaint about an edition of Newsnight you expressed concern that a headline on a third party website may have been defamatory of the BBC (see your email of 6 August 2015 below).

I wish to draw your attention to a 26 April 2017 article by Michael Howard for the US online magazine Paste (Let’s Call Western Media Coverage of Syria By Its Real Name: Propaganda) which describes the 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children as “a sham”:

Speaking of atrocity propaganda—very chic these days—the eminent BBC joined the club in 2013, throwing journalistic integrity to the wind with its broadcast of Saving Syria’s Children, a documentary that ostensibly showed the aftermath of an incendiary bomb raid. According to the report, the Syrian government used either napalm or thermite to attack schoolchildren in a remote district of Aleppo. The resulting footage, filmed in a nearby hospital, is bizarre in the extreme, with the alleged burn victims clearly taking stage directions from people off-camera. The story was dissected and ultimately exposed as a sham by journalist Robert Stuart, at which point the BBC began removing all traces of the film from YouTube, citing copyright issues. No formal retraction was ever made, to the BBC’s everlasting shame. But perhaps I shouldn’t fault them for exercising prudence. After all, if the BBC began retracting every false and/or inaccurate report on the Syrian conflict there would be very little left.

Paste is a multi-award winning publication. Its website states:

Paste prides itself on great writing about Music, Movies, TV, Comedy, Games, Books, Comics, Theatre, Design, Style, Visual Arts, Tech, Food, Drink, Travel, Politics, Media, Business, Science, Health, Wrestling and Soccer. Led by founding editor-in-chief Josh Jackson since 2002, has grown to more than 8 million unique monthly visitors, thanks to readers hungry for authenticity and creativity.

Paste has “more than 200,000 Facebook fans and 200,000 Twitter followers”. Howard’s article has been published on both Facebook and Twitter.

Will the BBC be raising concerns over defamation with the editor-in-chief of Paste?

Yours sincerely

Robert Stuart

Sent: Thu 06/08/2015 14:41
To: Robert Stuart
Subject: RE: Your complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit

Dear Mr Stuart

The deadline for comment having passed, I’m now in a position to finalise the finding on your complaint.  Please regard it as finalised on the basis set out in my letter of 20 July.  A summary of the matter will be published on the complaints pages of in due course, and I shall let you know when that happens.

Meanwhile, I must ask you to alter the headline over your copy at  The form of words “Fabrication in BBC Panorama’s ‘Saving Syria’s Children’: Substitution of ‘Napalm Bomb’ Footage/BBC Upholds Complaint” gives the impression that the finding in question is in some way connected with the Panorama programme and your allegations about it.  This is not only misleading but also (I am advised) defamatory.

Yours sincerely

Fraser Steel

About Robert Stuart

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

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