A spokesperson for the Coalition fighting Islamic State told Grasswire that media has “vetted” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and it “has been found wanting.”
The statement from the Coalition was in response to a series of questions about civilian casualties and Coalition assessments of strikes in Syria. Grasswire’s questions centered around a strike on a school in Mansoura, near Raqqa in March in which SOHR said 33 civilians died. The Coalition assessedthat “there is insufficient evidence to find that civilians were harmed”
SOHR is a UK-based monitoring group with a network of sources on the ground in Syria. It is cited extensively by the media, including Reuters, the Associated Press and AFP.
The spokesperson said that the Coalition holds itself accountable in what they called an “open and transparent process to assess allegations of civilian casualties.” The reports of the civilian casualty assessment team are published approximately monthly.
Most of our critics do not conduct such detailed assessments and often rely on scant information, which frequently comes from single unreliable sources.
The media has already vetted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and it has been found wanting.
Still their claims are printed as fact and rarely questioned.
“This is exactly what ISIS wants – to attack the strength of the Coalition – to create doubt in the mission and diminish our homeland support; and many are playing right into their hands,” the spokesperson added.
“The Coalition encourages all serious media outlets to not amplify or make salacious claims about civilian casualties without vetting their sources. We believe that endorsing unverified claims by these groups is not in keeping with the highest standards of journalism.”
Grasswire contacted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights by email but the group did not reply by publication time.
Reporting on Syria is hard
The Coalition criticism of SOHR and the media is valid. Sometimes we’re wrong.
But obtaining facts about events in Syria is extremely difficult.
It should be noted that the Coalition itself concedes that its civilian casualty assessment team “may open a previously closed assessment if more information becomes available.”
Grasswire spends significant time following sources and reports, slowly developing an understanding of how likely they are to be accurate. Sometimes those sources get it right, sometimes they’re wrong, and sometimes positions are changed as more information becomes available.
We collect and publish as much information about any event as we can, explaining where we can our assessments of the likely veracity of any piece of information. We often publish conflicting information.
We allow the reader to make up their own mind.