Western media ‘disappeared’ half the Syrian story
Why has the western media provided only a biased, incomplete view of what is going in Syria? Why have the steps taken by the Syrian government to answer the concerns raised by its citizens been ignored?
I am not a Syrian government apologist (more on that later). I just want to read the whole story. If I can find a variety of news sources including the official statements made by government officials and pro-Syrian government supporters why can’t the BBC or ABC or any other well-resourced western media?
And I am not only talking about the bizarre twists in the Syrian conflict such as “Damascus Girl”. If you missed that one, a young Syrian lesbian blogger created an international outcry when she suddenly disappeared. The Syrian government was suspected of abducting and maybe even killing her. One of her great supporters – fellow lesbian blogger Lez Get Real was particularly upset.
The drama really began when Damascus Girl was unveiled as American Tom MacMaster, 40, a married bloke living in Edinburgh. Lez Get Real turned out to be Bill Graber, 58, a US Air Force veteran.
Reports I have seen on a US blog suggest the two were operatives for the CIA trying to further de-stabilise the Syrian government. Who knows? You can’t blame the conspiracy theorists when MacMaster and Graber have failed to provide any plausible reason why two old geezers would pretend to be young lesbians.
Even after the truth was revealed, most of the Western media focus was on itself (‘why we were fooled’) rather than on the motivations of these strange guys. Why?
Coverage of the pro-government demonstration on June 15 in Damascus also really ticked me off. On that day a mass of people held up the largest Syrian flag in the world, stretching 2.3 kilometers to show their support for the Syrian government in general and President Dr Bashar Al Assad in particular.
Now picture two young guys in Sydney, both fluent in English and Arabic and educated in Australia, trying to find information just a day after the event.
My friend and I searched SMH, BBC, Reuters, news.com.au but found only the pro-opposition reports. Surely we would find balance on ABC TV? No luck. SBS TV? No way.
Luckily we knew of other sources such as Syrian media channels, friends on Facebook and YouTube and we hit the phones to speak to friends and relatives on the ground in Syria.
We were amazed to see the false reporting going on. For example, Western media, Aljazeera, and Alarabya (UK-funded) played a major role in broadcasting false news about Syrian diplomats resigning from their jobs in response to government’s crackdown on protesters.
France 24 broadcast that the Syrian Ambassador to France based in Paris had resigned from her job. The news was denied by the Ambassador herself but it took Western media and Western-funded Arab-language media two days to report the fact.
There is no doubt Syria is at a critical point in its history as an independent nation. The unrest we have seen in Syria stems from the country having a complete absence of an active opposition for the last 40 years. Syria has been politically paralysed for all that time despite the many promises made by Dr Al Assad during his decade in power that reform was in train.
Other fuel on the fire of discontent includes a poorly managed economy that eroded the middle class, an increase in the number of citizens falling below the poverty line, a massive increase in housing prices, and rising levels of unemployment.
I get that but where are the Western media reports on the Syrian government response?
Steps taken by the Syrian government and not reported include the lifting of emergency law that had been in force since 1962.
The government also increased wages by 30 per cent, decided on a timeframe for changing the electoral law and invited all opposition figures to a national conference to decide on the country’s future. There was also a mass release of political prisoners– the first time such an event had taken place since 1982.
Most dramatic of all, the unrest forced the Syrian government to resign for the first time since French colonial rule gave way to the Syrian Arab Republic in April 1946.
Almost none of this information was reported by the Western media. Why not?
According to people who live in Syria, these reforms were starting to kick in and calm people down in mid-May and life was returning to normal when suddenly civilians started falling dead in the streets across the country.
American pro-alliance media reported that the government in Syria was behind the killings and that the dead were peaceful protesters. What was not reported by Western media were the Syrian government claims that the protestors were armed Islamic extremists calling for an Islamic state.
Western media including Arab-language BBC and Aljazeera-funded Arab language media and Arabic media owned by governments allied with the US such Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates reported on the Opposition claim that police officers, who had refused to shoot innocent protestors, were themselves being executed by other police and army personnel.
These accusations faded quickly however after media saw a chink in their reporting.
An attack on a police station in Jis Alshougor killed 120 police officers. Their mass graves were uncovered to reveal they had been killed in cruel fashion – cut to pieces with some body parts left on the streets.
Western media conceded that the gruesome discovery gave credence to Syrian government accusations that the opposition was using violence against civilians and police simultaneously to stir up the unrest.
The Syrian government believes Western media have relied too heavily on dubious sources coming from social networks and videos posted on YouTube by opposition members. It was later revealed that many of these videos were not even shot in Syria.
I reckon the Syrian government was partly to blame. It had made a big mistake in restricting the movements of foreign journalists. While it later lifted these restrictions and actively encouraged Western media to accompany the Syrian army on patrols throughout the country to shoot their own footage including in Jis Alshougor it was too late.
BBC, Reuters, Aljazeera, and other channels declined this invitation. The explanation from the Head of the BBC office in Damascus is my favorite. He claimed his crew “did not have a camera available at the time.”
The story behind the story is that when a conflict erupts on the other side world, you better have some connections on the ground and have the relevant language skills if you want to know what’s really going on.
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