Reporter sues BBC, claiming she was bullied into Syria warzone

Natalie Morton, right, with BBC cameraman Raeph Ballantyne and Lyse Doucet. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 15 September 2020

Reporter sues BBC, claiming she was bullied into Syria warzone

  • Mortar injured Natalie Morton, who says she now suffers from PTSD
  • Morton says renowned war reporter Lyse Doucet forced her to go on assignment in Homs

LONDON: A war journalist for the BBC who narrowly escaped death in Syria is suing the news corporation, saying she was bullied into risking her life for no good reason.

Natalie Morton, 44, was a news producer working alongside Lyse Doucet, one of the BBC’s top war journalists, when a stray mortar round landed near her car in Homs, Syria, in 2014.

Morton suffered minor wounds when her vehicle was showered with shrapnel — another member of her team was seriously injured — but she now says she has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the incident.

She has filed a complaint for £150,000 ($192,845), saying her PTSD means she can no longer watch the news, let alone work as a journalist or war reporter.

She says Doucet, an Emmy award-winning war reporter and filmmaker, had bullied her into coming with her on the “unnecessary” trip to Homs.

Morton’s barrister says Doucet was “angry” at her for refusing a previous dangerous assignment, and “intimidated and pressurized” her into taking the journey to Homs.

The BBC’s legal team denies liability or that Morton was forced into the assignment, and said she is an experienced war reporter who willingly traveled to Homs.

“The claimant had total discretion on where and how to work, did not take instructions from Ms. Doucet, and was experienced in conflict zones,” said David Platt, the BBC’s lawyer for the case.

“She had applied for the job knowing that she would be exposed to an element of risk given the high probability that she would visit hostile environments.”

The incident occurred outside a camp for internally displaced persons in Homs, in which Doucet was filming for a documentary. Parts of Homs still saw intermittent conflict, but was not being fiercely contested at that time.

Morton’s legal team also say the BBC failed to “limit loiter time” on the shoot, which took over four hours.

But Platt said Morton chose to remain in her vehicle and work from there despite being “expressly advised” by her driver not to stay.

“It was her decision to remain in the vehicle and work from there. She was sufficiently relaxed not to wear her PPE (personal protective equipment) — including body armor and helmet,” he said.

When approached for comment, the BBC told Arab News that it cannot discuss ongoing legal issues.


Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

Updated 20 October 2020

Publicis Groupe veteran Kamal Dimachkie leaves as new successor is named

  • Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets
  • Shoueiry founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region

RIYADH: Publicis Groupe MEA today announced the departure of Kamal Dimachkie, chief operating officer, Publicis Communications, UAE and Lower Gulf. Dimachkie is a senior executive who joined Leo Burnett in February 1985. The company has appointed Samer Shoueiry to assume the role in conjunction with his current responsibilities as chief digital officer, Publicis Communications, Middle East from Dec. 1. Dimachkie’s decision to leave comes after 33 years with the company. He will leave his current position on Dec. 31 and continue to act in a consultative capacity until June 2021 in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Dimachkie’s career spans three decades of leadership and accomplishment in international and regional markets including the US, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE.

Raja Trad, executive chairman at Publicis Groupe MEA said: “I respect Kamal’s decision. He has been a friend and a colleague for over three decades, and not just I but the entire Publicis Groupe family will miss him. His tenure at the Groupe has been characterized by a clear commitment to values that are central to our philosophy. Kamal’s adept leadership propelled the agency to new heights — we won more than 250 accolades and added numerous international and local clients to our roster. I want to thank him for his immeasurable contribution to the Groupe and wish him all the best for his professional future.”

Dimachkie added: “Leo Burnett and Publicis Groupe have been my life for the past 33 years, and I am proud to have been a part of a glorious journey during which I have had the opportunity to serve the company in different roles in six countries, to have contributed to numerous clients and raised the bar internally and within the industry. Part of this has been the joy of working with a wonderful team and leadership, whom I have partnered with, learnt from and shall forever call my friends and brothers in arms. I am grateful to have lived the glory days of advertising with one of the best agencies in the world and to have worked with some of the most inspiring and creative people. I look forward to working with Samer on the upcoming transition and wish him success in his new role.”

Shoueiry, who will take on Dimachkie’s role, has over 21 years of experience across business, design and innovation. He has consistently delivered a robust performance in Publicis’ Experience Design and Experience Strategy, founded the agency’s Social Content Lab and played a key role in cultivating digital design thinking across the region.

Commenting on his appointment, Trad said: “Samer has a record of leadership and value creation, deep experience in generating groundbreaking brand experiences, as well as a focus on strategic design, innovation excellence and a strong technological footing. I look forward to continuing to work closely with him to drive our digital transformation in the region and support the spread of innovation through investments in our people, technology, platforms and tools. Together, we will ensure that we continue to move our business forward in the Connected Age through a data-led, digital-first approach.”

Shoueiry further added: “Kamal has built a strong foundation for future growth, including strengthening our team and expanding our scope of work. The current climate has accelerated digital transformation globally, and we are looking at a future where online and offline coexist to augment consumer experience in an interconnected brand universe. E-commerce is a necessity, digital equities are your flagship stores, search and social your new outdoor. With this new beginning, I will focus on further strengthening our creative strategy-to-results development to offer the best consumer-centric experiences and build brand value.”