RTE news failed to report accurately on Syria

On a day when the Syrian conflict once again made international headlines, reporting by RTÉ's weekend news team was sadly lacking on Sunday.

(WARNING: Videos embedded in this article contain images that viewers may find disturbing.)

The ongoing conflict in Syria featured prominently on RTÉ's Nine News on Sunday, 5 February. It was the second item, following a three minute report on Enda Kenny's visit to RTÉ studios that afternoon. News anchor Anthony Murnane opened the article (at 3:00 in this clip) with a report on international condemnation of Russia and China who vetoed a UN resolution on Saturday calling for President Bashar Al Assad to step down. Anthony Murnane's introduction was followed by a package by Sinead Hussey, who reported on the restive city of Homs. "Intermittent gunfire can still be heard across the city of Homs," she said. "According to reports, the shelling continues." Showing video of a brief crackle of gunfire, she continued: "Activists say scores of people have been killed today, but this amateur footage which cannot be verified is all that's emerging." 

This last statement, coupled with the video of distant gunfire, is untrue and failed to represent the extent of what happened in Homs on Sunday. A cursory search on YouTube reveals dozens of verifiable videos of military shelling, including harrowing images of children caught up in the agression. Indeed, the opening bulletin on Nine News featured the video immediately below - filmed by a local activist - of a shell striking a resididential area in Bab Amro. This suburb was besieged at the weekend. Curiously, this dramatic clip was not included in the main report.



Further videos on the activist's account show shells striking other buildings in the same vicinity:


As the afternoon progressed, further shocking video emerged, such as the father filmed below, holding the lifeless body of his young daughter (WARNING - GRAPHIC IMAGES).

More graphic and heart-rending images of children being treated in a local hospital were later filmed by the same cameraman:


Contrast how RTÉ reported events in Syria on Sunday with Al Jazeera's reportage. Al Jazeera discovered the most compelling YouTube videos uploaded from Bab Amro that day. In this bulletin, the news team overlayed a Skype chat with an activist in Bab Amro who gave a first-hand account of events.

In this earlier report on Sunday, Al Jazeera translates what is said by the doctor treating wounded children:  

Indeed a particularly gruesome video to emerge from Bab Amro on Sunday was the subject of much discussion on social media. The shocking video, linked here (WARNING - EXTREMELY GRAPHIC. Politico has chosen not to embed the video above as the thumbnail itself is very graphic) showed a young man whose jaw and lower mouth was blown off, reportedly by an artillery attack that day. The popular Twitter news wire, Breaking News, linked directly to the video. However, Neil Mann of Sky News asked followers to discuss his decision not to tweet to the video directly. He compiled the replies in the Storify below: 

[View the story "Graphic Videos On Social Media" on Storify]

The point is that Syria, and specifiically Homs, was a hot topic on social media on Sunday. Indeed, Sinead Hussey on Monday tweeted that she "spent the weekend looking at [video from Syria]. Horrific." This indicates that the newsroom did indeed see further shocking video from Homs that more accurately reflected what happened on Sunday. RTE's weekend team may not have the same resources as Al Jazeera (though Skype and a translation are hardly high-tech), but basic information did not carry across to the news report, and consequently, Irish viewers were given an inaccurate account of what happened that day. {jathumbnailoff}