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
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,This is Mr Kafala’s reply:
I have just read on the BBC Website "US 'used chemical arms' in Iraq".
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 couldn’t find it.
the Rai News 24 website, there is also an English version of the video.
Don’t you think that giving the link would be a good service to your
Here it’s the link
Thank you for your attention.
Hello Mr Zamparini,I had not read yet Mr Kafala’s 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.
This is an informal reply to your enquiries and comments.
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.
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.
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.
At this point I wrote Mr Kafala’s the following email:
Dear Mr Tarik Kafala,A few minutes later I received Mr Kafala’s reply:
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.
Mr Zamparini,In the meanwhile two things happened:
little research has indicated that White Phosphorous is not a chemical
weapon, nor is the US a signatory to conventions restricting its use.
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
I will not be responding to every email commenting on a minute detail of our coverage.
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.2) A box with details of white phosphorus has been added to the article:
The US military admits using the weapon in Iraq to illuminate battlefields.
US military officials deny using it in built-up areas. Washington is
not a signatory of an international treaty restricting white phosphorus
- Spontaneously flammable chemical used for battlefield illumination A little research, and here it’s my reply to Mr Tarik Kafala:
- 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
Dear Mr Tarik Kafala,
In your last email you write that "White Phosphorous is not a chemical weapon". I believe it’s 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 article’s 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"
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 it’s indeed the BBS NEWS website to be
wrong and – using your words – "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.