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Behind the scenes of a Syria-UN scoop

By Christina Okello

International media headlines this week have again been dominated by the Syrian conflict, with notably a damning report by the Guardian about the role of UN aid in Damascus. In this magazine, RFI's Christina Okello goes behind the scenes to see how the report was put together, its reception, and impact.

According to the British daily paper, contracts worth tens of millions of dollars have been awarded to people closely associated with President Bashar al-Assad under the UN's Syria aid programme.

"It was really complicated with a story like this because obviously you don't want to criticize anybody who is putting their life at risk to do the work that they do," Emma Beales, one of the authors of the Guardian investigation told RFI.

"You ask yourself an ethical question: whether you're going to hurt anyone by telling the truth."

The dilemma Beales and her colleagues faced in mounting the hard-hitting report, was perhaps matched by the uncomfortable position the United Nations was put in.

A UN spokesperson said operating in Syria with the conflict now in its sixth year, forces humanitarians to make difficult choices, including cooperating with the Assad regime to gain access to civilians.

However for Nadim Choury of Human Rights Watch, it’s too high a price to pay.

"Alarm bells should have rung when by funding aid, you also end up funding the wartime effort. It just becomes vicious,” he said.

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