Aussie reality show says participants who faced ISIS fire were safe

Participants of an Australian reality show which took them to the Syrian front lines where they came under fire from ISIS mortars. The broadcaster said the group was accompanied by a private security firm during the trip.
Participants of an Australian reality show which took them to the Syrian front lines where they came under fire from ISIS mortars. The broadcaster said the group was accompanied by a private security firm during the trip.PHOTOS: YOUTUBE
Participants of an Australian reality show which took them to the Syrian front lines where they came under fire from ISIS mortars. The broadcaster said the group was accompanied by a private security firm during the trip.
Participants of an Australian reality show which took them to the Syrian front lines where they came under fire from ISIS mortars. The broadcaster said the group was accompanied by a private security firm during the trip.PHOTOS: YOUTUBE

SYDNEY • Australian public broadcaster SBS yesterday defended a reality show where participants were shot at by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants as part of a trip retracing refugees' journeys, saying they had security preparations.

SBS was to air the first episode of the three-part series Go Back To Where You Came From yesterday evening, with the programme taking "ordinary Australians" to Syria, Baghdad and Myanmar to expose them to the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees.

In footage released by the broadcaster, three of the six participants are seen running and taking shelter behind buildings amid the sound of mortar rounds in Syria.

"Righto, that's rounds coming in. Stay down, okay," a person escorting them can be heard saying in the video clip. "Stay down, real low. Stay down below this wall. We don't want them to know we're here. They're just in front of us."

SBS said in promotional material that those taking part were "escorted under security to the Syrian front lines by Kurdish soldiers as they defend a village under threat by ISIS... and come under fire by nearby ISIS insurgents".

 
 

It said the safety of the participants and crew was "paramount", after an Australian security consultant reviewed the footage and said there was "substantial risk... with the deployment" and "appropriate controls were not implemented".

SBS said in a statement that the group was also accompanied by a private security firm during the Syria trip.

"The situation captured on camera where the group was shot at was not planned, but not unexpected in a war zone," the statement said. "The armed security team was prepared for an event like this, and quickly took action to move the participants and crew to a safer location."

The documentary series is in its third season and won an international Emmy for non-scripted entertainment in 2013. Previous series took people to Afghanistan, Somalia and Indonesia.

One of those taking part, anti-refugee campaigner Kim Vuga, said the "worst part was going as close as we could and knowing that their bullets could reach us".

"We were told to listen for any whistling sounds coming through the air and that would mean a mortar had been fired. We were told we had 30 seconds to run 100 metres," she told the Herald."It was surreal."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Aussie reality show says participants who faced ISIS fire were safe'. Print Edition | Subscribe