World

Survivor: ISIS edition

Reality TV show under fire for taking participants to ISIS war zones in Syria

Reality TV shows have been known to go to extreme lengths for entertainment.

But Australian public broadcaster SBS may have gone too far and put the lives of its participants in danger.

Yesterday, SBS was forced to defend Go Back To Where You Came From, a reality show where participants are shot at by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Syria as part of a trip retracing the journey taken by refugees.

SBS said they had extensive security preparations, reported AFP.

It was to have aired the first episode of the three-part series yesterday evening, with the programme taking "ordinary Australians" to Syria, Baghdad and Myanmar to expose them to asylum-seekers and refugees' experiences.

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

"Righto, that's rounds coming in. Stay down, okay," says the voice of a person escorting them in the video clip.

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

The broadcaster added that 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".

The consultant, former army officer Justin Bowden, told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that the three Australians should have been given helmets in addition to the ballistic vests they were wearing.

PRIVATE SECURITY

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

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

It added that one crew member chose not to travel to the Syrian frontline after a security briefing. A cameraman was also left behind to reduce the group's size for security reasons.

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

The programme's executive producer Michael Cordell said the makers were trying to "put a human face to a pressing global problem".

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