Monday, 5 December 2016



I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Mainly because of a Twitter account by a little girl called Bana Alebed and also a Twitter account by The White Helmets.

In the show Star Trek - The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart quotes this: "The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to THE TRUTH. Whether it be Scientific truth, historical truth or personal truth".

This rule also applies to journalism. Our first duty is also to the truth.

Sadly the truth can get lost in waves of lies, propaganda, and - forgive me as I hate this expression - "fake news"

Which is where our little friend Bana comes in. As soon as she started tweeting, people - and yes, even I'm guilty - were so moved by her tales of life as a seven year old in war torn Aleppo, Syria, that virtually overnight she gained thousands of followers!

Of course as soon as she did, the trolls and conspiracy theorists had to stick their noses in. They sent tweets to her followers (including me) denying she exists, saying it was part of the White Helmet's propaganda machine, because people have been sceptical about their agenda too.

The questions that were asked about her were:

Where does she get her internet from?

Why were her and her brothers wearing spotless and (possibly new) clothes, in a place full of rubble, dust etc? And most seven year olds get dirty just playing outside.

Why as a seven year old can she write excellent English in her tweets, but in a video can't string two words together?

And so on....!

These questions are valid, but I think what is more important is what she is doing for Syria. She is highlighting the horrific conditions and fear of the most vulnerable and innocent across her country. No-one wants to think of a child suffering. So what she says resonates with us. We wouldn't be human beings if it didn't.

Then we have The White Helmets. The bravest people in the world who enter places most of us wouldn't have the courage to go, and if we did, we wouldn't last long. These men have rescued hundreds of people from destroyed buildings and again many have been children. There was Omar - the little guy in the ambulance, an image that is burned into the memories of many people. Then there was the little toddler who was rescued, that made us understand the heroism of these people. Some of the images they've given us have reduced us to tears.

People need to just for once take things at face value and accept that The White Helmets are The White Helmets and Bana is just little Bana.  The little seven year old, who is living a life that none of us would like to be living, thank you very much. We (the world in general) need to stop seeing conspiracies where there are none.

I personally believe Bana is real and I believe The White Helmets are not trying to spread propaganda, but just doing their job as rescuers for some very frightened and desperate people.

I for one will continue to support and communicate with this frightened little girl, if it helps her life be a tiny bit better and I have nothing but praise for The White Helmets.

One of the worst things about this is that because journalists are reporting this stuff, they too are being labelled as propagandists and liars.  We are nothing of the kind. We are telling the truth as we see it. I'm not saying that there aren't some unscrupulous people out there who have an agenda, but they are few and far between and should not even call themselves journalists.

Whether the stuff about Bana or The White Helmets is true, is something only you can decide.
As they say on the X Files, "The truth is out there".

The truth. All we journalists can do is tell what we believe to be the truth. It's the truth as far as we understand it. Whether you believe us is up to your discretion.  

"All we can do is keep asking questions and that is the best we can do" ~ Lyse Doucet BBC.