GENEVA (Sputnik) – The conference is set to take place in the Swiss Press Club on November 28 amid the beginning of the eighth round of intra-Syrian talks. UK independent journalist Vanessa Beeley, who has carried out her own investigation into the White Helmets’ activities, was invited to participate in the conference alongside French journalist Richard Labeviere, expert in the Middle East and international terrorism, and Marcello Ferrada de Noli, chair of Swedish Doctors for Human Rights (SWEDHR) non-governmental organization.
After the date of the event has been announced, Swiss club’s Director Guy Mettan received a letter from Gerard Tschopp and Christiane Dubois, the president and the director of RSF Switzerland, both members of the Swiss Press Club. The officials have asked Mettan to cancel the conference, saying that it "damages the image of the Swiss Press Club," while the participants of the meeting "serve Russian propaganda." Tschopp and Dubois claimed that they did not want their organization’s name to be associated with the meeting, and threatened to withdraw their Swiss Press Club membership, if the conference is not canceled.
"I am amazed. I have never seen that an organization in charge of protection of the freedom of press requires from me censorship in relation to a press conference. Usually, pressure aimed at prohibiting a press conference comes from a country with tough dictatorship. It is the first time that such a request has been voiced by the organization, protecting the rights of journalists, from a democratic country," Mettan told Sputnik, adding that he did not plan to cancel the conference, and noted that he had received many messages in support of the event.
In a comment to Sputnik, Beeley did not rule out that the event would be attended by the representatives of terrorist organizations, located in Europe. The journalist also recalled that her previous speeches on the White Helmets in the United Kingdom had been perceived with aggression. Beeley said she was not paying any attention to such threats, as she was comparing the situation with the sufferings of the Syrians.
According to Mettan, the conference would take place, however the Swiss Press Club would have to step up security at the upcoming event.
White Helmets is a Syrian humanitarian organization that claims to have saved tens of thousands of lives, with its activists often being depicted saving people from under debris and providing first aid to civilians. However, the White Helmets' videos has repeatedly been suspected of being fake and staged.
In particular, the Swedish Doctors for Human Rights (SWEDHR) NGO issued a report, stating that the "lifesaving" procedures shown in the videos published by the White Helmets are incorrect, fake and "ultimately performed on dead children."
According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, the activities of the White Helmets are a part of a defamation campaign targeting Syrian authorities, while the media was using the organization's materials without first verifying the content.