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People Are Mad At This News Channel For Saying Viral Footage Of A Syrian Child Was Staged

"Some websites," "criticizers," and "internet users" are all the sources cited in a Chinese state television report that's being mocked online.

Posted on August 22, 2016, at 4:36 p.m. ET

Footage of a 3-year-old Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, injured in an airstrike in Aleppo last week has become an iconic symbol of the Syrian civil war's tragic impact on civilians and broken the hearts of people across the globe.

View this video on YouTube

The boy's family confirmed on Friday that his older brother died from injuries he sustained during the attack that left Omran bloodied.

Despite the powerful visual, China's state-run CCTV News presented another theory: The footage ~could~ be Western propaganda faking a humanitarian excuse to further intervene in the war.


The station aired a "debunk" over the weekend, citing accusations from unspecified sources that the rescuers didn't try to help the boy and actually staged the footage.

The piece questioned the independence of Daqneesh's rescuers, the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer-based humanitarian group, also known as "the White Helmets."

That's one step further than what a Russian government spokesperson said in a press release that slammed the Western media's “cynical use of this tragedy in anti-Russian propaganda material,” according to the state-owned RT News.

The piece also questioned the autonomy of NGOs that receive funds from governments. That's less than surprising, as the Chinese government has taken a more hostile attitude toward NGOs, especially foreign NGOs based in China, in recent years. It has also recently tightened regulations against NGOs, further cracking down on the country's civil society.

But even Chinese social media users, who are mostly fed only the state's narrative and blocked from viewing information from most foreign social media, found the accusation too absurd to buy.

"This 'debunk' is actually spreading a rumor," one Weibo user commented.

Another said that the rescuers shouldn't be blamed for taking video: "to rescue and to record [the rescue] doesn't have to be contradictory, okay?"

A few sympathizing souls got really angry, including one person who demanded to know whether the person responsible for the segment would stage their own child in that situation.

"What is this trying to say?" Weibo user Forevermili asked. "Should we raise more concerns about the cruelty of the war or attack the West?"

"Even if this is indeed faked, this photo broke people's hearts and brought out the mercy in us. Isn't it enough that we understand the brutality of the war?" another said.

Reports from China's other state media didn't carry the same suggestion as CCTV's segment.

But the Chinese military has reportedly decided to increase "aid and training assistance" to the Syrian government after delegations of the two governments met last week, stepping up involvement in the Middle East allegedly to protect the country's own interests in the region.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.