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Gabriele Zamaprini, The Cat's Dream

November 8, 2005

Fallujah, the RAI NEWS 24 documentary and my e-mail exchange with the BBC
By Gabriele Zamparini

On Tuesday morning, November 8, 2005, the BBC NEWS website published an article with the title US 'used chemical arms' in Iraq

This was after RAI NEWS 24 documentary "Fallujah. La strage nascosta" (Fallujah. The Concealed Massacre) depicting the use of white phosphorous on civilians in Falluja last year was broadcast the same morning from the Italian TV channel.

The film however had been available on the internet since the day before (November 7, 2005) when many alerts and comments appeared on websites and blogs around the world.

On my blog I posted an alert about the RAI NEWS 24 documentary as well as an email I sent to the BBC, asking when and where we would see the documentary now that another "hard evidence" had been provided.

When I read the BBC NEWS website article US 'used chemical arms' in Iraq I wrote the BBC the following email:

Dear Mr Tarik Kafala,

I have just read on the BBC Website "US 'used chemical arms' in Iraq".

I have tried to find in the article and on the web page where it appears the link to the Rai News 24 video. Unfortunately I couldnít find it.

On the Rai News 24 website, there is also an English version of the video. Donít you think that giving the link would be a good service to your readers?

Here itís the link

Thank you for your attention.

Kind regards,
Gabriele Zamparini
This is Mr Kafalaís reply:
Hello Mr Zamparini,

This is an informal reply to your enquiries and comments.

I've seen the Rai film through the link you sent me. We cannot link to it at the moment for a number of reasons. We do not have rights and would have to clear access with Rai. We will need to do some investigation on the making of the film before broadcasting it on the web.

Thank you for pointing me to the IRIN report yesterday. I look at the IRIN site regularly, but I missed this. Please feel free to pass any well sourced news material of this kind to me.

Regarding our general reporting on Iraq. I'm sure you are aware of the difficulties of reporting the story. I freely concede that there is an overdependence on official sources, but this is currently unavoidable due to the difficulty of gaining access to the areas many of the military operations occur in. We are always very careful to state what the source of a particular report or piece of information is.

To get around the reliance on official sources we have tried several techniques:
Please take a look at these:
One day in Iraq
Eyewitness: Farewell to Falluja

Please keep in touch.

Best regards,
I had not read yet Mr Kafalaís email when I noticed that the BBC NEWS website had changed the title to the article. From US 'used chemical arms' in Iraq to US 'uses incendiary arms' in Iraq.

At this point I wrote Mr Kafalaís the following email:
Dear Mr Tarik Kafala,

The BBC News website has just changed the title of its short and opinionated article on Fallujah.

The original title was:
US 'used chemical arms' in Iraq

The new title now is:
US 'uses incendiary arms' in Iraq

However the link to the Rai News 24 documentary is still absent.

I would be grateful if you could consider to answer this email.

Thank you.

Kind regards.

Gabriele Zamparini
A few minutes later I received Mr Kafalaís reply:

Mr Zamparini,

A little research has indicated that White Phosphorous is not a chemical weapon, nor is the US a signatory to conventions restricting its use.

We are doing our best with a complicated report. Our story is not opinionated, it is both accurate and balanced. The Rai report may have at its heart an important truth, but it is factually inaccurate and misleading.

I will not be responding to every email commenting on a minute detail of our coverage.

Yours faithfully,

Tarik Kafala
In the meanwhile two things happened:

1) The BBC NEWS website article changed (again!). In this new version (the last?), the reader now can find these new paragraphs:
Rai says this amounts to the illegal use of chemical arms, though such bombs are considered incendiary devices.

The US military admits using the weapon in Iraq to illuminate battlefields.

But US military officials deny using it in built-up areas. Washington is not a signatory of an international treaty restricting white phosphorus devices.
2) A box with details of white phosphorus has been added to the article:
- Spontaneously flammable chemical used for battlefield illumination
- Contact with particles causes burning of skin and flesh
- Use of incendiary weapons prohibited for attacking civilians (Protocol III of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons)
- Protocol III not signed by US
A little research, and here itís my reply to Mr Tarik Kafala:
Dear Mr Tarik Kafala,

In your last email you write that "White Phosphorous is not a chemical weapon". I believe itís for this reason the article in the BBC NEWS website changed again. The article now starts with: "Rai says this amounts to the illegal use of chemical arms, though the bombs are considered incendiary devices." And again for this reason I believe the articleís title changed from US 'used chemical arms' in Iraq to US 'uses incendiary arms' in Iraq

The statement "White Phosphorous is not a chemical weapon" is in fact incorrect.

If you had the time to follow this link and click the "Play" under the photo on the right at the bottom of the page, you would learn directly from the voice of Peter Kaiser (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) that "any chemical that is used against humans or animals that causes harm... [is] considered chemical weapons... prohibited behavior"

Considering what I have written above, the accusation you made in your email against the RAI report, namely "The Rai report may have at its heart an important truth, but it is factually inaccurate and misleading" not only did happen to be wrong but itís indeed the BBS NEWS website to be wrong and Ė using your words Ė "factually inaccurate and misleading" .

I hope this may clarify the picture and I want to hope the BBC will take the due steps to correct its reporting.

Kind regards,
Gabriele Zamaprini

:: Article nr. 17604 sent on 09-nov-2005 00:55 ECT


Link: www.thecatsdream.com/blog/2005/11/exclusive-bbc-is-wrong.htm

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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