Western journalists were given access to Syria 3 days ago, which was the first time since the start of its uprising 100 days ago. I counted three organisations: CNN, Sky News, and The Sunday Times. The latter did not wish to name its reporter, but I noticed the others from their TV and Twitter reporting; they were Jeremy Thompson from Sky, Hala Gorani, Arwa Damon and Jomana Karadsheh – all from CNN (unless I missed others).
At first instance, this move could be welcomed and seen as a new way to deal with the protests by the regime in Syria. But after 3 days of reporting, all what we got from these international reporters was that: there are two stories in Syria! as if we didn’t know there were two stories emerging from there (sensibly one true and one false!).
These reporters were controlled by the government representative(s) at all time, who decided for the journalists where to go, when to go, who to speak with and how. To be fair to these journalists, they all mentioned that in their stories; they said that the stories could be seen as one sided, and admitted they were controlled by the government. So you can say they were doing their best.
Where I have a problem in the reporting is that they managed to give the government’s story an equal status as the opposition’s. They sum it up in saying that there are conflicting stories in Syria from both sides; but they didn’t tell us who or how 1,300 persons got killed – until now. This brings me to the question, why did they go there in the first place? Shouldn’t we have stuck with the Syrian State Tv if we want to know the government’s rhetoric? Is the Western media swallowing the Syrian regime propaganda?
Just in case we are missing the basics, this is how Cambridge Dictionary defines the term ‘propaganda’
information, ideas, opinions or images, often only giving one part of an argument, which are broadcast, published or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions
The question about Western media takes me back to the interview The New York Time did with the regime connected, the business tycoon Rami Makhlouf. Then, they only got to his palace, asked his questions, allowed him to give his answers, and then left Syria. They reported nothing from what was happening around.
Of course, I am no way near lecturing these renowned Main Stream Media and their journalists how to report, but this is really how I saw it. There was no real benefit to the truth in being there (not even a scoop for them). They were giving the government the ‘benefit of the doubt’ in their reporting. I don’t know they were trying to ‘befriend’ the government or promote their propaganda.
Have a look at the CNN Middle East website headline (click to enlarge): ‘Syrian General: 400 soldiers, police killed’. It seems the General is a suitable source to go on the front page.
Another one from CNN, a quotation taken from a CNN Arabic article (translation):
We walked the streets of Damascus, with one of the government officials, and we saw the pictures of Assad everywhere. Apparently, President Assad has absolute support in the capital.
Really? is this how you quantify the support a president has in a totalitarian regime? by the number of pictures on the walls?
You can read the full CNN English article here which included a video interview with Fayssal Mekdad ( or Faisal Al Mikdad the Syrian Vice Foreign Minister).
If I check Sky’s coverage, it’s no better at all. In their TV report, they showed live filming for the pro-regime story, but showed YouTube clips to represent the opposition’s view. So there was no benefit from being there. To sum it up, check their website front headline: ‘Syrian Govt: Extremists infiltrate Protests’, again taking the government as a headline source. You can read the full Sky News article here.
The below YouTube video was an interview done was Sky with ‘normal people’ in the street (activists said the crowd was prepared by government beforehand), but it went a bit wrong when a person spoke up and denied all government accusation that the killing was done by armed gangs rather than by the government security forces. Reportedly, this man went missing after this interview.
Believe me, it takes a lot of courage to say what this man said in Syria, and on the record; things have really changed in Syria.