Initial response to BBC Trust decision

These are provisional notes, I shall submit my full response to the BBC Trust by 26 August 

Please find at this link the decision of the BBC Senior Editorial Strategy Adviser not to place my complaint regarding Saving Syria’s Children before the BBC Trust. I have until 26 August to appeal. (The BBC’s own response was a day late). This is the final stage in the BBC complaints process.

Incredibly, in Section 2.8 (p17)  the Adviser claims that the woman in the black dress and blue headscarf who appears in Panorama at 36 minutes (and moments later on a stretcher) is the same woman featured in this You Tube video of the same event.  As the images below make clear, the woman on the right is self-evidently much younger [1].  The Adviser therefore avoids responding to my suggestion that the same clothing (the distinctive dress and headscarf) was ‘recycled’ between two different amateur actors/opposition supporters involved in the fabrication.


Re: the suspicion of prosthesis in the case of some of the alleged injuries (see Section 2.5, p14) my blog now hosts comments from a doctor who observes: “Some are shown with skin hanging off but the flesh beneath is not that convincing it actually looks like more skin.”

Further initial thoughts:

Section 2 (p6) The Adviser has not viewed the rushes herself. [Reading the BBC’s provisional finding again I am struck by how weak the claims from the rushes are, e.g. “I have viewed the rushes and the material appears to confirm that the individual described by Panorama as the baby’s father (seen wearing a beige top) had sustained some burns” – my italics].

Section 2.1.3 (p9) There is fresh uncertainty over the Demotix photos. In these two videos, Victim X would appear to be dead. These films were shot in an ambulance, likely in the environs of Atareb, the “field hospital” in Panorama (both videos feature the medic seen with the young woman in this video, in which the room is recognisable as Atareb), or possibly somewhere en route to Bab al-Hawa hospital on the Turkish border. [2] In either scenario, why would a supposedly deceased victim be supplied with oxygen upon arrival at Bab al-Hawa, as the Demotix photos depict?

Section 2.2 (p11) “..not everything was edited in exact chronological order other than the start and end of the day” – I had precisely questioned the sequence of shots at the “end of the day” in point 4 of my 11 June letter to the Trust.

Section 2.7 (p15) The scenario of a private residence being used for “summer courses” in mathematics, English etc for children is undermined by information I have received indicating that the name “Iqraa Institute” (as revealed by Dr Ahsan) refers specifically to informal, proselytising Wahhabi Islamic centres [3] set up by local rebel councils, almost exclusively for adults from the local population and led by Muslim clerics very unlike the alleged “teacher” in Panorama.

Section 2.9 (p19) Links between the Syrian opposition the charity Hand in Hand for Syria are clearly indicated by (a) its logo (only recently amended) which is based on the opposition emblem; (b) the shocking Facebook banner of the organisation’s founder Faddy Sahloul (also now deleted); (c) the extensive research of Dr Declan Hayes of the University of Southampton.

The points in my urgent submission to the BBC Trust of 19 June have been ignored entirely:

  • There are glaring discrepancies between Panorama and this list of casualties (in which all deaths are given as 26 August)
  • This report gives the time of the incident at 2pm; Ian Pannell claims 5.30pm
  • Substantial funding for Atareb Hospital from a “European donor” via an “INGO partner” was in place, and it was well equipped with a kidney dialysis machine, x-ray and surgical facilities, prior to Ian Pannell’s description of it as “a basic hospital funded by handouts”
  • Regular Atareb staff were away from the hospital on 26 August (shunted out of the way to allow for the fabrication to be filmed?)

The document contains some blunders & misrepresentations:

  • P3 – “In the summer of 2012” – this should of course be 2013
  • P6 – I hadn’t previously received a transcript of the programme (not that I required one)
  • P10 – “a chair appeared to have moved from its original position in successive shots” – this was not a concern
  • P14 “ have deceived such an experienced team” – the substance of all my correspondence is my belief they were complicit, not deceived

A full list of my correspondence with the BBC to date is here.

I note that the BBC has now produced this “retrospective” of the napalm bomb incident, with the unconvincing behaviour of background figures blurred out (00:32 – 00:40).

These further comments on the Senior Editorial Strategy Adviser’s decison have been posted on the Media Lens Message Board.


[1] Furthermore, the younger woman is presented as a student at the supposed school (“all I saw was people on fire, I was on fire, my friends were on fire”) whereas there is no attempt to suggest that the older woman who appears with her “father” in Panorama is a student, which,  would be extremely implausible given her obviously mature years.

[2] Victim X is likely the person referred to by Dr Hallam in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and in this BBC article: “We lost a gentlemen on transfer to Bab-Al-Hawa, he had extensive third degree burns. I’ve never seen a burn that bad. I think his face is going to stay with me for quite a long time”. If so, then this further suggests either that the Demotix photos at Bab al-Hawa are staged with Victim X’s corpse, or that he did not die at all.

[3] My source states ‘Iqra’ is “the first word pronounced by the angel Gabriel talking to Muhammad”.


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