In preparation for a BBC radio series, BBC journalist Chloe Hadjimatheou contacted me on 12 October requesting a response to the following allegations:
I would like to let you know some of the things which we are currently considering including in the series that concern the Working Group and its ideas in case you would like to provide any clarifications or statements.
* That none of the members of the Working Group has expertise in Syria or chemical weapons.
* That members of the Working Group subscribe to conspiracy theories
* That members of the Working Group believe that many journalists in the media are connected to the secret services.
* That members of the Working Group believe I have connections with MI6 and the British government.
* That the members of the Working Group believe that James Le Mesurier and the White Helmets were involved in so called managed massacres and staged chemical weapons events in Syria.
* That these ideas do not reflect where the weight of the evidence lies and that you do not impartially investigate allegations by neutrally assessing all the evidence available, you do not provide a balanced view of other perspectives, nor do you contact those you make accusations about for calcification or for their views and as such these ideas are not credible and amount to conspiracy theories.
* That the idea that a gas chamber was involved in a fake chemical attack is not plausible and is based on a paper by Denis O’Brien who is not a credible source.
* That these ideas of faked chemical weapons attacks are useful to the Russian and Syrian states.
If you would like to respond in any way, either with clarification or else to comment on the above then please do so in the next 5 working days. If you have not replied by 5pm on Monday 19th October we will say in the programme that we approached you for a response but that you declined.
BBC Current Affairs
My response was as follows:
Dear Ms Hadjimatheou,
You have made a series of unspecific allegations against the WGSPM, without any detail, reference or citation, regarding ‘conspiracy theories’ and incompetence. All of these allegations are either false or misleading.
The output of the WGSPM is objective and rigorous and we have consulted widely when expertise outside of our own research areas has been needed, for example from the world leading chemical and biological weapons expert Julian Perry Robinson who both supported our work and invited Professor Paul McKeigue to present at the Harvard-Sussex Programme on Chemical and Biological Weapons in March 2020. I personally have been asked, and freely given, academic advice and feedback to one of your BBC colleagues regarding Syria and propaganda.
Our work on alleged chemical weapon attacks has been vindicated by whistleblowers from the OPCW and many leaked documents whilst eminent figures such as José Bustani, the first Director General of the OPCW, have spoken out about the flaws in the OPCW investigation of the alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma, 2018. A statement from Bustani on the OPCW/Douma issue was delivered to the UNSC just a few weeks ago. The Douma issue has been covered by a number of mainstream media outlets including the Mail on Sunday and La Repubblica and we continue to be in contact with OPCW persons with direct knowledge of investigations of alleged chemical weapon attacks. Finally, we are in communication and working with elected representatives from multiple NATO states regarding the OPCW issue. To accuse our work of being ‘conspiracy theory’ is therefore demonstrably false and defamatory.
I return to the questions that you have so far failed to answer and we also have further questions for you and your employer.
1) Who facilitated your making contact with Raqqa SL for the piece you produced several years back?
2) Why have you refused to say whether you asked Raed Al-Saleh about the burial location of the Douma victims and why did you attempt to divert Professor Paul McKeigue from pursuing this line of questioning?
3) BBC producer Riam Dalati has publicly stated that he knows from research and interviews that the hospital scenes at Douma were staged. Why has the BBC not handed this critical information over to the OPCW/IIT who are the formal body tasked with the investigation of the alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma?
In the interests of transparency, this response and your list of questions will be made public.
Dr Piers Robinson
To the best of our knowledge, it remains the case that the BBC has failed to pass on critical information in their possession with respect to the Douma hospital scenes either to the OPCW or other journalists who are in a position to understand the seriousness of BBC producer Riam Dalati’s claim that these scenes were staged.