BBC Documentary, 'A History Of Syria With Dan Snow', Was 'Biased And Inaccurate' Say Critics

The BBC is being heavily criticised for a "biased and inaccurate" documentary on Syria's civil war, reports Al Arabiya.

'A History of Syria with Dan Snow', which aired last week, has come under fire from a number of prominent London-based Syrians who argue the programme pandered to the regime of president Bashar al-Assad.

Ghassan Ibrahim, chief executive of the London-based news site Global Arab Network (GAN), called on the BBC to issue an apology for misrepresenting the Syrian opposition.

The BBC insisted the documentary met their journalistic standards

In the documentary, presenter, Dan Snow, framed the current civil war as a struggle between secularism and religion.

He then places this in historical context by comparing it to the struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Assad's father, Hafez in the 70s and 80s.

Ibrahim, who is Syrian, argues this takes history "out of context".

He added: “[The show] wasn’t really balanced. It represented the views mainly of the regime. He’s saying all the opposition is Muslim Brotherhood or extremists.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is not the leader of this revolution. In the 1980s it was a different story. To put it that history is repeating itself is not true.

"You don’t just pick and choose from the history to suit what’s going on today.”

In the program, Snow calls the conflict "primarily a Sunni Muslim revolution".

He adds: "The conflict in Syria is attracting Sunni Islamic extremist fighters from Syria and abroad - some linked to Al Qaeda, who have carried out car-bombings… Elements of the Free Syrian Army have been blamed for summary executions and torture of Alawites [the religious group to which Assad belongs] and other supporters of Assad's regime.

"Such atrocities are terrifying Alawites, who are scared that the oppression and bloodshed of the past is about to repeat itself."

Similarities have been drawn between Snow's conclusions and the official line coming from Damascus.

Writing in the Telegraph, Sameer Rahim said:

His explanation why the Syrians are rebelling was suspiciously close to Assad’s line: that many resent Assad’s coming from a religious minority. After French Colonialism ended in 1946, Syria was unstable until Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president, seized power in 1970. Sunni Syrians were opposed to him, Snow informed us, because Hafez was from the minority religious sect the Alawite, whom some regard as not proper Muslims. In 1982, after an attempt on his life, Hafez sent in the troops to the Sunni powerbase of Hama, and massacred 20,000.

The choice of interviewees in the program has also been accused of giving an unbalanced view of the sides involved in the conflict.

Whilst those on the side of al-Assad tended to be high ranking officials, Ibrahim said: “From the [opposition] side, you didn’t find anyone who was a real figure or anyone you can identify.

"He did not give them any platform to talk.

“There is a big, big gap in this film. It looked like it was politically motivated.”

Suspicions have also been raised about how Snow gained such open access to parts of Syria where other reporters are forced to use pseudonyms.

In a country where many journalists find it almost impossible to travel safely, Snow was able to walk freely around Damascus.

Critics also point to a number of omissions in the program such as Assad's support for Hamas and Hezbollah, or the non-religious factors underpinning the uprising.

The BBC told Al Arabiya: “We're satisfied the description of events is balanced and impartial and the program is made in accordance to our editorial guidelines meeting our usual rigorous journalistic standards."

The accusations come at a delicate time for UK relations for Syria as the government announced they would consider breaking an EU embargo to arm Syrian rebels.