What lesson should be learned from the staged BBC story on Syria?

CGTN Published: 2019-02-16 21:41:28
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On Wednesday, a BBC Syria producer announced to the world that the hospital scene in a BBC story in the wake of a suspected chemical attack in Syria last April was "fake."

Riam Dalati was referring to the alleged chemical gas attack in the town of Douma some 20 km northeast of Damascus, which the BBC claimed inflicted damage. In the story, children appeared to be treated for the attack. A lack of doctors appeared to add to their suffering and the urgency of the situation.

After months of investigation, Dalati came forth to overturn his own work. He tweeted that he can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital, he said. All the activists and people he spoke to were in other areas. One of the people who filmed the scene was a doctor affiliated with Jaysh Al-Islam, an internationally recognized terrorist group.

From his description, it seems that he was tricked into believing what he saw in the hospital at the time, although one can be absolutely sure. As a veteran journalist, it's his basic duty to check the authenticity of his information and the background of his sources before publishing the story, especially when it comes to such an important subject.

The story has helped mislead the public opinion, creating the impression that chemical weapons were indeed used against innocent women and children. Seven days later, the U.S., together with its allies France and the UK, bombed what they believed were chemical weapons facilities in Syria, hours before UN inspectors were due to arrive for an official investigation.

Dalati's announcement is not a surprise to many who have independent judgment. Shortly after the Douma incident, journalists from both Russia and China went to the site to try to find out the truth.

According to Russia 24, the boy featured in the BBC story had gone to the hospital because strangers asked him to. The father of the boy said there was no abnormal attack at the time. A Chinese journalist investigated the hospital and found many questions unanswered. According to hospital staff, no suffocation cases caused by poisoning were treated in the hospital on the day of the alleged attack.

These important questions were seldom asked in the Western media. Dalati's announcement on Wednesday is unlikely to receive much attention either. The BBC reacted by saying his post reflects his personal view, and the attack did indeed take place. But if the hospital scene was staged, what proof supports this claim?

The BBC should ask the civilians who were wounded in the ensuing airstrikes if they accept that this was the reason why they got hurt. Not to mention the sovereignty of Syria that has been trampled upon and the material damages caused.

This was not the first time and will not be the last time that unauthenticated information or even lies were published by some journalists or media organizations in the West which were used to advance the Western narrative.

The Uygur woman by the name of Mirgrul Tursun who lied about her life in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is just another example.

After being proven to be false, the CNN story based on her account is still there, quoted and re-quoted to serve the basis of other stories criticizing China. Her lies were even used to make the case for relevant legislation by the U.S. Congress.

I once said the Western media normally don't lie, only tell the partial truth. In this case, I'm going to correct myself. If a staged story is reported as a true story, it can be as damaging as lying.

To err is human, but to err again and again is a human tragedy. To admit having erred and to correct the wrongdoing is the only way to start rebuilding the credibility of the Western media.

(The author Liu Xin is an anchor at CGTN.)

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of chinaandgreece.com, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.