Why was a BBC interview in Syria doctored?

By Jonathan Cook (the Blog from Nazareth)

The following two BBC video reports on the victims of the same incident in the Syrian civil war raise very troubling questions about the corporation’s journalistic ethics. The two reports use seemingly identical footage of an interview with a British doctor but the words are different. Her mouth is covered by some kind of medical mask.

The first can be watched at:


At about 2 mins, the doctor says the victims have burns that “must be some sort of chemical weapon, I’m not really sure”

The second can be watched at:


At about 2.20 mins the doctor says the victims’ injuries “must be some sort of, I’m not really sure, maybe napalm, something similar to that”

It should be possible to discuss this without therefore being accused of questioning or doubting the suffering of the victims of the Syrian civil war, or even of the injuries ascribed to the people shown in the videos. This is an issue, and a vitally important one at that, that concerns the extent to which we can trust media reports coming out of Syria and, more generally, the battlefields of the interminable “war on terror”.

Why would a British doctor working on the front lines of the Syrian civil war, as severely injured Syrians are pouring through the door of her makeshift hospital, either agree or want to record two different versions of an interview on the tragic events unfolding? Even more to the point, why would the BBC record these two versions of an on-the-spot interview and then broadcast them both, separately, showing identical footage but with the doctor making two different accusations depending on which version you watch?

I’m racking my brains trying to think what possible answer the BBC could give, and for the life of me I can’t think of a good one.

Did the doctor change her mind seconds after saying the burns were napalm-like and ask for a second take so she could accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons? And, if so, how could the BBC reporter, in good conscience, have allowed himself to be used in that kind of overt way?

Or, even more disconcertingly, did the BBC reporter ask her to redo the interview. Did she, for example, make the chemical weapons claim in their pre-filmed talk and the reporter asked her to make the claim again on camera? But then, how could she have known the victims were exposed to chemical weapons before they’d arrived and she’d seen them? And why would the reporter want her to give a different assessment to the one she made after she’d actually seen the victims?

And was this interview really as spontaneous as the BBC portray it as being?

It is difficult not to feel that we, as viewers, are being played here, either by the doctor or the reporter, or both. And if the BBC has either perpetrated this manipulation or conspired in it on this occasion (and got caught out by making the mistake of broadcasting both versions), how many other times has something similar happened in the BBC’s coverage of Syria, or elsewhere for that matter?

I have a feeling we will never find out.

Kudos to the followers of Media Lens who discovered the discrepancy. For their discussion see

(h/t Craig Murray)

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