Reckless Voice of America suggests Russia behind chemical attack in Syria

BBG Watch Commentary

In a stunning display of dangerous and irresponsible journalism at a highly critical time following the U.S. military missile strikes in Syria Friday morning, U.S. government-funded Voice of America (VOA) suggested without offering any evidence or proof that Russia may have conspired with the Syrian regime to carry out the suspected chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, Syria, April 4, 2017, in which scores of civilians were killed.

The Voice of America report “US Attacks Syrian Airbase in Retaliation for Chemical Weapons Attack” by VOA reporters Steve Herman, Jeff Seldin, Carla Babb, last updated by VOA on April 06, 2017 at 11:18 PM, quotes Dr. Annie Sparrow, a public health specialist and a critical-care pediatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, as saying that “a ‘chemical cocktail’ was used on the town.” The VOA report said that Dr. Annie Sparrow “has carried out many studies on Syria” but did not elaborate what kind of studies.

The VOA report continues next with a highly provocative and completely unsupported statement that could have serious or even deadly consequences for Americans and Russians considering the extremely sensitive moment in U.S.-Russia relations after the U.S. missile attack in Syria and a real possibility of misunderstanding that could get out of control:

Screen Shot of VOA Report US Attacks Syrian Airbase in Retaliation for Chemical Weapons Attack 2017-04-07 at 1:33 AM EDT

VOA:She gave this chilling assessment to the VOA Turkish service: ‘It’s quite possible that Assad and Putin are using this … as a kind of experiment to test out new combinations of lethal chemical weapons.’

For the Voice of America at such a critical moment to imply even with a quote that Russia was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in Syria without VOA being able to provide a shred of evidence or any kind of proof that President Putin indeed conspired with President Assad to use chemical weapons against civilians is utterly irresponsible and would have been unthinkable in the past when the Voice of America used to observe closely the strict requirements of its VOA Charter to present accurate news and to reflect clearly U.S. policies.

“Such far-fetched conspiracy theories involving two superpowers possessing nuclear weapons have absolutely no place in VOA programs and can be extremely dangerous at a highly sensitive time,” said former VOA acting associate director Ted Lipien. He noted that “Putin’s Russia is guilty of many violations of international law, including the illegal occupation of Crimea and its military intervention in eastern Ukraine, but it has never used chemical weapons.”

“The White House and the State Department should demand an explanation from VOA director Amanda Bennett and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing and assure Russia that VOA was engaging in reckless and unsupported speculation, unless these two U.S. officials can provide convincing evidence to the contrary,” Lipien added.

Disclosure: Ted Lipien is a co-founder and supporter of BBG Watch, an independent watch dog website run by former and current BBG journalists.

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