Journalist: BBC tried to silence me over Syria mortar attack

Natalie Morton, right, with BBC cameraman Raeph Ballantyne and Lyse Doucet. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 28 September 2020

Journalist: BBC tried to silence me over Syria mortar attack

  • Natalie Morton said she was bullied into entering active combat zone by senior colleague
  • ‘We utterly reject these claims,’ BBC says in statement to Arab News

LONDON: A former BBC journalist has claimed that senior bosses tried to stop her speaking out after she was bullied into working in life-threatening conditions while reporting on the conflict in Syria.

Natalie Morton, a former BBC producer, was paid over £100,000 ($128,926) after she said senior war correspondent Lyse Doucet pressured her into a trip to an active combat zone in the city of Homs in 2014, where she and a colleague were caught up in a mortar attack. The colleague, a cameraman, suffered 35 injuries as a result.

Morton said Doucet had been “aggressive” in pushing for staff to venture into danger zones with her, but her “perception of safety was almost completely absent.”

Morton reserved more criticism for BBC management, who she claimed failed either to keep staff safe or to provide proper care and assistance for journalists who had undergone traumatic experiences while working in combat zones. She said she had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the incident.

“The BBC does not care about employee wellbeing,” Morton, who also spent time working in Afghanistan and Iraq, told The Times newspaper.

“There was no peer-to-peer support and no possibility of redeployment so that I wouldn’t have to go back into hostile environments.”

She said as part of the bullying settlement, in which the BBC did not admit liability, bosses had at the last minute tried to insert a non-disclosure agreement and a joint statement condition.

“I refused,” Morton added. “There was no point in taking the case without being able to warn my colleagues that the BBC is not doing its job and that staff are at risk of psychological trauma.

“There is still very much a macho atmosphere in the BBC newsroom: If you express concern about safety then the more likely you will not be given jobs.”

In a statement sent to Arab News, the BBC denied that it ever sought to stop Morton from talking about her experiences whilst at the corporation.

“We are pleased to have reached a resolution where there were no admissions of liability,” it said.

“We utterly reject these claims. The BBC has never sought to stop Ms Morton from talking about her experiences at the BBC,” it added.

“The safety of BBC staff is paramount. We have robust risk assessments in place, we give staff thorough training to work in hostile environments, staff can decline assignments in dangerous locations, and we have extensive support structures for staff on their return from abroad.”


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.”