Unreliable data can incite and escalate a conflict – the latest UN-sponsored figure of 60,000 should not be reported as fact
The body of an unknown man, killed by Syrian army artillery shelling, in the Aleppo cementery. ‘It’s essential the media ask questions about reported deaths.’ Photograph: Maysun/EPA
Less than two months after the UN announced “shocking” new casualty figures in Syria, its high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay estimates that deaths are “probably now approaching 70,000″. But two years into a Syrian conflict marked by daily death tolls, the question arises as to whether these kinds of statistics are helpful in any way? Have they helped save Syrian lives? Have they shamed intransigent foes into seeking a political solution? Or might they have they contributed to the escalation of the crisis by pointing fingers and deepening divisions?
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