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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
NewsWatch complaint not upheld
US forces in Falluja
US forces in Falluja during the November operation
Complaints that a NewsWatch website feature was inaccurate have not been upheld by the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit.

The item Did BBC ignore weapons claim? was published in April in response to criticism that the BBC had failed to investigate claims about the use of banned weapons in Iraq.

Specifically it was alleged that that the United States had used such weapons during its assault on Falluja last November.

BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood, who was embedded with the US marines in Falluja at the time, said he had found no evidence of the use of banned weapons.

In addition, he had had meetings with the relevant specialists at Human Rights Watch (HRW) and they had no evidence either.

Banned weapons

It was the reference to Paul Wood's contacts with HRW that the Editorial Complaints Unit agreed to examine for accuracy. Media watchdog MediaLens complained that he had misrepresented the HRW position.

The report said: "Paul asked them specifically about banned weapons in Falluja. They said they had heard the claims, had made some investigations, and had found no evidence that such weapons had been used."
Residents pick through the rubble of a house destroyed in Falluja
The US operation in Falluja reduced much of the city to rubble

In its verdict that the NewsWatch report was not misleading, the Editorial Complaints Unit - which investigates complaints independently of journalists - cited the evidence given to it by the HRW spokesman:

I find nothing inaccurate in what Paul stated. I think the issue is with the choice of the word "investigation". As Paul noted, we did not have a full-fledged investigation with testimony from eye-witnesses, etc.

What we did have, and I communicated to him, was an investigation more on the lines of what I would term an inquiry. We had folks try to get into Falluja but were unable, and we had folks talk to people in Baghdad who had left Falluja.

But the information was not of the quality for us to do any reporting. Beyond that, we made inquiries to the US Government, and other press. To the best of our knowledge no banned weapons were used during either battle of Falluja.

This is not to say that a future investigation might reveal some breach by US forces, but we have no credible information along these lines to my knowledge.


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