The complainant was suspicious of statements attributed to the Syrian government and to Vladimir Putin.

By Esther Enkin, CBC ombudsman

The complainant, Greg Hunter, was suspicious of statements attributed to the Syrian government and to Vladimir Putin. He thought it unlikely they had actually said what Carol Off attributed to them in the course of an interview on As It Happens. He questioned the accuracy. There was no violation of policy.


You had questions about the attribution of statements in the course of two different As It Happens interviews. Your first inquiry referred to an interview Carol Off conducted with a Syrian doctor after the bombing of a hospital.

During the Thursday, April 28, As It Happens, Carol Off said something like, “The Syrian Government has said that they consider hospitals to be legitimate targets”. She did not state where or when she had seen this. Personally, I find it rather hard to believe.

Could you please tell me if this statement can be verified?

You had a similar concern about a reference to Vladimir Putin in an interview Ms. Off did on May 5, 2016.

Could you please add one more quote to be checked out. It is from the May 5 As It Happens by Carol Off, “… Putin has said that no civilians have been killed by Russian Airstrikes”. Please let me know where and if he actually did say that.

You asked for the sources of these statements and to be provided with the actual quotes.


Robin Smythe, the Executive Producer of As It Happens responded to your complaint. She dealt with your inquiry about the attribution to the Syrian government first. She told you “she absolutely stands by Carol’s question and the information we relied on in our interview.” She cited several reports from human rights and humanitarian organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International and Amnesty International which document aerial attacks by Syrian forces. For that reason, she disagreed that it was, as you put it “‘hard to believe’ that the Syrian government would take such a position.” She also cited a statement from an April 28 report from The Guardian newspaper which attributed a policy of attacking medical facilities to the Syrian government:

The Syrian government considers any medical facilities in opposition-held territory as legitimate military targets, saying that they are de facto illegal… As early as 2013, the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry investigating alleged war crimes in Syria said attacks on medical facilities were being used systematically as a weapon of war by the Assad regime. Attacks by both sides on medical facilities have continued unabated in recent months. MSF said in February that a total of 94 airstrikes and shelling attacks hit facilities supported by the organisation in 2015 alone.

Ms. Smythe told you that in reviewing the second interview she did not hear the phrase you mentioned – “Putin has said that no civilians have been killed by Russian Airstrikes”. She did provide the question she thought you were referring to:

Carol Off: Both Syria and Russia are denying any responsibility for this air strike. Who do you think is possibly responsible for it?

She also supplied several articles which reference Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the Russian air force does not target or bomb civilians.

To continue reading this story, please go the CBC ombudsman’s website where this was originally published.