Is BBC Panorama just a useful propaganda tool?

The “shocking” Panorama episode aired on Monday evening which explored British taxpayer money as foreign aid diverted to extremist groups in Syria has been presented as brave and uncompromising journalism typical of the BBC flagship investigative current affairs programme.

But it actually amounted to nothing more than an exercise in misdirecting the British public as to the true nature and scale of the government’s collusion with jihadists in that country and in doing so the programme makers obscured rather than exposed the true agenda here.

BBC Panorama’s Jane Corbin in “Jihadis We Pay For” (Photo: Screenshot)

Two days before the episode was aired, independent investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley published a deep expose of the entire affair based on her own on-the-ground, investigations inside Syria.

“During my time in East Aleppo in 2016/17 with Syrian journalist Khaled Iskef, we translated documents (in Arabic) found by Iskef that referred to two British organisations, Adam Smith International (ASI) and Integrity Global in connection with the funding of Syrian ‘opposition’ structures in East Aleppo,” she recalls.

“The program, which is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) will be aimed at local structures that indicate responsibility, transparency, and respect for human rights and strengthens their capacity to provide local services to communities. Adam Smith and Integrity will provide technical assistance through local consultancy teams, as well as technical and financial resources to meet the most urgent needs. This program is currently working in 10 excellent communities and is expected to increase the assistance to 40 communities.” ~ Taken from the document.

The next thing Beeley says is crucial to understanding what this story is really about. “These documents were found among the debris of the various Nusra Front (al-Qaida in Syria) centres, East Aleppo Council buildings and White Helmet centres. It is noteworthy that these three entities operating in what was terrorist-occupied East Aleppo until December 2016, always worked alongside one another, either sharing facilities and buildings or next door to one another in the various districts of East Aleppo where they centred their activities.”

Now, let me first point out that you may not be used to the phrase “terrorist-occupied East Aleppo” if your only sources of news are western corporate ones which routinely and reflexively describe the exact same place at that time as “rebel-held East Aleppo” in line with the official government narrative.

But if, like myself and my travelling companion, fellow independent journalist Mike Raddie, you had walked the streets of East Aleppo in April this year and listened to the people there who came out to meet us, you would have heard them talk not of “rebels,” but only of “terrorists.”

Because that’s what you call people who terrorise you. And when a man stands in front of you and tells you that these occupiers killed his six children, you simply do not have the right to call them anything else. If you’re in any doubt about the correct nomenclature here then more first-hand testimony from East Aleppo residents gathered by Beeley can be found at, and you might ask yourself as you read why it wasn’t brought to you by Channel 4 News, ITV News or the BBC?

It could, perhaps, have something to do with what Media Lens has described as these outlets’ “stenographic reliance on official sources” which ensures that our “best” reporters never deviate from the party line.

A learned and essential obedience is in operation which allows such an absurdity as the rebranding of al-Qaida in Syria as “moderate rebels” to gain immediate acceptance through corporate media amplification — a scenario Orwell himself could have conjured up — and this is only the latest chapter in a century of British government collusion with radical Islam.

This brings us to my second point regarding Beeley’s quote. “Nusra Front (al-Qaida in Syria) centres, East Aleppo Council buildings, and White Helmet centres,” where the documents confirming the Adam Smith Institute’s involvement were found, represent entities which “always worked alongside one another.”

Oh dear. This would be difficult to explain to the public wouldn’t it?

The White Helmets are eulogised by the entire western establishment and its duteous media. How could Panorama have accommodated the affiliation of these civil defence “heroes” with Nusra Front terrorists without undermining the entire edifice of propaganda propping up the White Helmets’ mythology? And without exposing them as what John Pilger has described as “a complete propaganda construct in Syria”?

Again, Beeley has done the on-the-ground work that so-called journalists in the “mainstream” media should have done and compiled “categorical” evidence that “the leadership of the White Helmets is some of the most hardline terrorist groups in Syria,” all the while being funded to the tune of £200 million by the British government.

White Helmets have been filmed standing on the dead bodies of Syrian Arab Army soldiers, celebrating executions, staging fake rescues and cheering the sawing the head off a 12-year-old child.

White Helmet members have been photographed in their “civil defence” uniforms and then the same individuals pictured holding guns as they pose with their terrorist factions.

The White Helmets are not recognised by the Switzerland-based International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO) but the REAL Syrian civil defence is.

Oh yes, they do exist and, unlike the White Helmets, this genuine group works in all areas, saving civilians without discrimination, not just in the areas controlled by terrorist groups. They even have an emergency phone number that citizens can call for aid. it’s 113, in case you were wondering.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence. (Photo: Lattakia Fire Brigade)

Panorama could have made their programme about this and included the evidence that the Free Syrian Police — that’s the Orwellian use of “free” by the way — and the local councils being funded by the British taxpayer through the secretive and unaccountable Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and doled out by the Adam Smith Institute and Integrity Global are, along with the White Helmets, working alongside Nusra Front.

That is the real story, but they didn’t tell it.

No corporate media outlet is going to expose this huge propaganda exercise that is designed to destabilise Syria rather than, as the Foreign Office’s claims, “make communities in Syria safer by providing basic civilian policing services.”

As Patrick Henningsen, another independent journalist who has produced sterling work from on the ground in Syria, points out, “regarding the ‘Free Syrian Police’ and UK FCO/BBC whitewash story we are seeing now, I have one seriously germane question to ask: Where the hell does any government get off marching into a sovereign UN member state and setting up their own police force, ‘first responder’ agency and new local government structures, including marketing and branding, paying consultants —- all with western taxpayer funds — and under the protection of a foreign-backed terrorist insurgency?

What do you really think you are doing? How is that legal, lawful or within ‘international norms’ in Global Britain’s new ‘rules-based international order’? You want to sell this as normal, legal? You can’t be serious…”

Lastly, the Adam Smith Institute, in the last few days, has visited the website of Robert Stuart, who has single-handedly exposed Panorama for fabrication in their programme, Saving Syria’s Children.

His evidence so compelling it caused TV producer Victor Lewes Smith to rip up his BBC contract in a video he posted on his Twitter account. We can only speculate as to why the ASI was looking at such a devastating critique of the BBC?

Stuart also reported Panorama journalist on Saving Syria’s Children, Ian Pannell, to the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office for embedding with terrorist group and Isis affiliate Ahrar al-Sham — their logo clearly visible in the episode as part of the BBC team’s convoy.

BBC’s Ian Pannell in a vehicle with operatives from Salafist militant group Ahrar al-Sham
Pickup truck in convoy transporting BBC reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway on 26 August 2013 bears the former logo of Salafist militant group Ahrar al-Sham (Saving Syria’s Children, BBC1, broadcast 30 September 2013).

Were we really expecting this “flagship” investigative programme to tell us the truth about our government’s full involvement in colluding with terrorists to destabilise Syria?

Absolutely no-one we met in Syria had a bad word to say about their president Bashar Hafez al-Assad. Not one. We found the people of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus entirely united in their resolve to fight the real enemy — the US and the Wahhabi terrorists we’re colluding with.

The Syrian political opposition has joined Assad for the same reason. We met his Minister of Reconciliation, Dr. Ali Haidar, who stated that, as soon as the conflict is over, he will go back into official opposition, but, as long as Syria is under this existential threat, he will remain in coalition. Dr. Haidar also told us in April this year that over 80,000 Syrians who had joined the uprising have since taken up the offer of government amnesty and have either returned to civilian society or formed a battalion within the Syrian Arab Army to fight ISIS and al Qaeda affiliated groups in their country.

The spirit of defiance in the country is palpable, but at the same time it is somehow not infused with bitterness. There is a purity to it that we found very moving and I think this is a reflection of the generous nature of the Syrian people who have created a tangible sense of community.

Before the war, we were told, people didn’t even know what religion their neighbours were and lived in mutual harmony and respect. They will resist sectarianism to the last.

A Syrian lawyer told me she will never leave Damascus — “never!” — and she lives 200 metres from the front line.

I would urge everyone to visit this amazing country and be forever changed by the bravery and open-heartedness of its people. “We know people are not their governments,” we were repeatedly assured. And they mean it. I have recently read an article titled “If Syria falls” and this is what we all must contemplate.

The Syrian people are resisting for all of us and deserve our unrelenting support and admiration.

I can’t help but imagine the justifiable uproar if President Assad or Vladimir Putin created and financed a shadow police service in Britain — a Free British Police.

Why does BBC ignore this imperial arrogance among FCO policy planners?

Originally published: Alison Banville (Morning Star)


  1. “what Media Lens has described as these outlets’ “stenographic reliance on official sources” ” Perhaps the site doesn’t permit deep linking. In which case, the author of the above piece, in referring to it and providing a link to the site, needs to furnish us with something, the author’s name or the title of the article.

  2. Nima Masterson

    Its so encouraging to hear you say that the Syrian people are ‘not bitter’, but the campaign of manufacturing consent through fake narratives, staged atrocities, proxy extremists and the rest of it has been absolutely inhuman. It makes the work of sites like this and journalists like you absolutely invaluable. Very glad to have been directed to this site, thanks Alison =)

  3. Alison Banville

    Hi Nima, thanks so much for those words of support! They are very much appreciated. Yes, what the Syrian people are suffering is outrageous, but the lack of bitterness is something that struck us very strongly when we were there and it was extremely moving. They just want peace. But it’s always the same, ordinary people paying the price while the psychopathic elites play their power games.

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