BBC News still promoting false balance on Syrian regime chemical weapons

On August 5th the BBC News website published a report titled “Syrian conflict: Government scientist killed in blast” on its Middle East page.

Readers of the BBC’s report on that story were told that: [emphasis added]

“The head of a suspected chemical weapons’ research centre in Syria has been killed in a car bombing, pro-government and opposition media report.

Aziz Asber was the head of a facility belonging to the government’s Syrian Scientific Research Centre.

Western intelligence agents have said the organisation is linked to a Syrian chemical weapons programme.

A rebel group said it carried out the attack, but there has been speculation that others could be involved.”

That link leads to a BBC report dating from May 2017 in which audiences were informed that:

“Syria’s government is continuing to make chemical weapons in violation of a 2013 deal to eliminate them, a Western intelligence agency has told the BBC. […]

The intelligence document obtained by the BBC says Syria’s chemical weapons are manufactured at three sites – Masyaf, in Hama province, and at Dummar and Barzeh, both just outside Damascus. All three are branches of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), a government agency, it adds.”

In June of this year the BBC’s Diplomatic correspondent reported that the OPCW (the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons):

“…found sufficient evidence to determine that the Syrian Arab Armed Forces (President Bashar al-Assad’s troops) were responsible for three chemical weapons attacks in 2014 and 2015, and that the Syrian regime was responsible for the Sarin nerve agent attack in April 2017 in Khan Shaykhun.”

Nevertheless, towards the end of this latest report BBC audiences were once again told that: [emphasis added]

Syria has denied owning or using chemical weapons, but the US and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of carrying out a chemical attack on former opposition stronghold Douma near Damascus that reportedly killed 40 people in April this year.”

It is clearly evident that the Assad regime did not destroy its “entire chemical arsenal” as mandated by UN Security Council resolution 2118 in 2013 and hence does in fact ‘own’ chemical weapons. It is also a fact that the OPCW has determined that the Syrian government’s forces have used chemical weapons on at least four occasions other than the one in Douma in April 2018.

Nevertheless, BBC audiences continue to see false balance in the form of the repeated promotion of inadequately challenged Syrian propaganda that is presumably intended to tick the BBC’s ‘impartiality’ box. In addition to being downright ridiculous, that editorial policy clearly undermines the BBC’s purpose of providing the public with accurate and impartial reporting that enhances its understanding of this issue.

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BBC News amplification of unchallenged Assad propaganda persists

Several hours after reports of an attack on a facility in northern Syria emerged early on the morning of September 7th the BBC News website published a report that was originally titled “Israeli jets ‘hit Syrian chemical site'”. After an additional alteration, that headline was later changed to read “‘Israeli jets hit Syria’s Masyaf chemical site’ – reports” and in the hours after its initial publication the article underwent numerous amendments.

From version five of the report onwards, BBC audiences were delivered a dose of Syrian regime propaganda – including a link.

“The Syrian army said rockets had struck the base near Masyaf, about 35km (22 miles) west of the city of Hama, at 02:42 on Thursday (23:42 GMT on Wednesday), causing “material damage” and the deaths of two personnel.

It accused Israel of attacking “in a desperate attempt to raise the collapsed morale” of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) and warned Israel about “the dangerous repercussions of such hostile acts on the security and stability of the region”.”

This is of course far from the first time that BBC reporting on alleged Israeli strikes against military targets in Syria has included amplification of the Assad regime’s unfounded propaganda concerning supposed Israeli support for one or other of its enemy factions and intervention in the civil war in Syria. That practice has been in evidence for well over four years:

BBC unquestioningly promotes Assad’s “destabilisation” claims

BBC promotes Assad propaganda in Syria reports

BBC Q&A on alleged Israeli air strikes is political polemic

BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ promotes more Syrian regime propaganda

BBC report on shootings in Golan parrots Assad propaganda

Vital information missing in BBC reports on alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria

Why is BBC Arabic amplifying Syrian regime propaganda?

Multi-platform BBC promotion of Syrian regime falsehood concerning Israel

BBC News amplifies unchallenged Syrian regime propaganda yet again

More unquestioned amplification of Syrian regime propaganda from BBC News

One presumes – and hopes – that BBC knows full well that such statements from the Syrian regime are mere baseless propaganda and yet it continues to serially feed those unqualified falsehoods to its audiences.

Similarly, readers of this article once again found amplification of Assad’s lies concerning another issue.

Version 2

“The attack comes a day after UN human rights investigators said they had concluded a Syrian Air Force jet had dropped a bomb containing the nerve agent Sarin on a rebel-held town in April, killing at least 83 people.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the incident in Khan Sheikhoun – which prompted the US to launch a missile strike on an airbase – was a “fabrication”.

He has also insisted his forces destroyed their entire chemical arsenal under a deal brokered by the US and Russia after a Sarin attack outside Damascus in 2013.”

Clearly the BBC is not enhancing audience understanding of events in Syria (or its own reputation as a credible and relevant media outlet) by parroting the unchallenged propaganda of a brutal regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens and displaced millions.

Related Articles:

Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?

BBC’s ME editor suggests Syria chemical attack related to Israel