On September 6th the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report which identifies the Syrian regime as having carried out the chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun earlier this year.
“As part of an aerial campaign in northern Hama and southern Idlib, on 4 April the Syrian air force used sarin in Khan Shaykhun, killing over 80 people, most of whom were women and children. The aerial campaign also targeted medical facilities throughout the area, resulting in a severe weakening of their ability to provide assistance to victims of the sarin attack and a consequent increase in the number of civilian casualties. In Idlib, Hamah, and eastern Ghouta, Damascus, Syrian forces used weaponized chlorine. These attacks constitute clear violations of international humanitarian law and the Convention on Chemical Weapons, the report notes, which the Syrian Arab Republic ratified in 2013 following a previous sarin attack.”
Naturally that story was given extensive media coverage and many outlets managed to strike an appropriate balance between portraying the UN report’s findings and putting the related denials of the Assad regime and its Russian allies into appropriate perspective.
“The Syrian government and its Russian backers had insisted that the Khan Sheikhoun attack was the fault of opposition forces in the area, or that it was entirely fabricated. The inquiry found no supporting evidence for either claim.”
“[UN commission chair] Pinheiro also ruled out claims by Assad and Russian officials following the sarin attack that military strikes had hit a weapons depot belonging to rebel forces that contained sarin gas.”
“The Assad government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons, but the report said the Syrian regime’s version of events, that an unknown weapons depot had been hit, was “extremely unlikely”.”
“The Assad government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. It said its strikes in Khan Sheikhoun hit a weapons depot belonging to rebel forces, a claim “excluded” by Pinheiro.”
“The panel’s findings are the first authoritative statement to pin responsibility for the attack unequivocally on the Syrian government.
Although a number of foreign governments, watchdogs and news organizations, including The New York Times, had concluded that Syrian forces were most likely behind the attack, the latest report — released by a body tasked with investigating violations by all sides in the conflict — carries more weight and will be harder for the Syrian government and its allies to dismiss as politicized.”
The NYT’s report also includes a video titled “How Syria and Russia Spun a Chemical Strike”.
The BBC News website’s report on the story – “Syria government behind Sarin attack – UN investigators” – amplified the Syrian regime’s denials just three paragraphs in.
“UN human rights investigators have concluded that the Syrian Air Force carried out a chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in April.
At least 83 people died when a Su-22 jet dropped a bomb filled with the nerve agent Sarin on Khan Sheikhoun, a report by a commission of inquiry says.
Damascus insists the incident was faked and denies using chemical weapons.”
Later on readers were told that:
“They [UN investigators] also dismiss statements from the government’s ally, Russia, which has asserted that the Syrian Air Force struck a terrorist chemical weapons depot.”
Towards the end of the report the Syrian regime’s propaganda was repeated.
“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 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.”
It is clearly evident that the Assad regime (with which a BBC reporter was once again embedded just last month) did not destroy its “entire chemical arsenal” as mandated by UN Security Council resolution 2118 in 2013 and the BBC itself published a report in May that quoted a “Western intelligence agency” as saying that “Syria’s government is continuing to make chemical weapons in violation of a 2013 deal to eliminate them”.
Nevertheless, BBC audiences continue to repeatedly see false balance in the form of unchallenged Syrian propaganda that is presumably intended to tick the ‘impartiality’ box. In addition to being plainly ridiculous, that editorial policy clearly undermines the BBC’s purpose of providing the public with accurate and impartial reporting that enhances its understanding of global issues.
Why does the BBC describe the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack as ‘suspected’?
Are BBC audiences getting the full picture on Syria’s chemical weapons?
BBC News amplification of unchallenged Assad propaganda persists