Written by Sarah GartlandRead moreShare this articleTweetThis articleThe story of the time the BBC’s Alastair Campbell visited the front lines of the conflict in Syria, when it came to reporting.
It was the second time Campbell had spent time in Syria with the BBC, and he was given access to the front line of the war.
“I think it was the first time I had actually been on the front foot, in the trenches,” he says.
“And the idea of being able to have that close experience was something that I couldn’t say no to.”
So he decided to interview the people he saw on the frontline, and to capture the stories of how the conflict unfolded.
“It was something I’ve been really keen on for a long time, and I thought this was something you can really capture, I think, and really make an impact,” Campbell says.
“So I said to the BBC producer, ‘Well, would you like to have a look?'”
The BBC approached a number of freelance journalists to see if they’d be interested in reporting on the Syrian conflict, and found a number who were willing to work for free, and who had already spent time with the front.
Campbell says he felt “awe” at how much of the experience he was going to be getting, and it felt like “a huge privilege”.
“I thought, if I could do that, I would be able to do it,” he recalls.
Campbell says he thought the BBC would be interested, but when they didn’t respond he went to one of his contacts in the UK, and the next day contacted the BBC to ask if he could go and interview them.
“He said, ‘Sure, we’ve got a few people who have a similar background to you, and they’d love to come in’,” Campbell says, “and I said, well, why don’t you let them know what they can do for you?”
The BBC was keen to work with Campbell, so they invited him to London, where he had a meeting with the head of the BBC Middle East unit, Nick Robinson.
“The meeting was very brief, and we had no questions,” Campbell recalls.
“Nick said, what do you need to know?
I said: ‘Well I’m just here to get a briefing on what’s going on, so let me get the briefing.'”
Robinson was very friendly, and very receptive, and just wanted to give me a brief briefing on the situation in Syria and to give an insight into what’s happening.
“As Campbell’s report on the conflict began to make the rounds, he was approached by a number more freelance journalists, who also wanted to come to the UK for the same job.”
It seemed like a natural fit,” he continues.””
I was actually getting more phone calls than I normally do, because I was actually working with the Syrian Front.”
“It seemed like a natural fit,” he continues.
“We were just going to do a short interview and go home and take it over to the next assignment, so I was quite happy with the outcome.
But we did meet some other freelance journalists and that was it.”
Campbell had already been in Syria for a while, having spent a year working as a foreign correspondent in Lebanon, but this was the time when the conflict was really going on.
“There were a number areas in Lebanon where I thought the Syrian people were in the worst position, and in some cases the worst period of conflict in Lebanon’s history,” he explains.
“At the time, it was an open war, and there was very little international aid to help people, and so I thought it was important to get the international community involved in the fight, so that they could help people.”
Campland travelled to Syria with a team of photographers, who captured some of the most horrific scenes from the conflict.
“They had this incredible sense of humour,” Campbell notes.
“They would laugh at the things they were seeing.”
The footage of the frontlines Campbell captured helped to fuel international outrage, and led to the UN Security Council voting to lift a US-backed blockade.
The BBC’s report, The Syrian Front, was commissioned by the UN, which called it “a devastating, human rights-based account of the horrific conflict that has raged in Syria since March 2011”.
Campbell was invited to a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York where he told the world what he had witnessed.
“People were shocked, and some of them were actually quite upset,” Campbell said.
“And I was really, really surprised by the response I got.
It was so much more than I could have expected.”
The story has now been made into a documentary film, called The Front Line, which Campbell hopes will help to inspire other journalists to do the same.
“A lot of the stories in The Front Lines are