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Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

There is no doubt that after months of widespread demonstrations and over 1000 people killed, Syria has changed irrevocably. Whether that is for the better remains to be seen.

Despite the ongoing and ever brutal crackdown by the army and security services, there have been a few encouraging signs over the past few weeks. Most significantly, at least as far as the international community is concerned, foreign journalists have been let back into the country. Granted, it’s a very small number and the government won’t be allowing them out of arm’s reach of the ever-present official minders but it is at least a step in the right direction.

The local news has made (small) progress as well. SANA covered the recent opposition meeting in Damascus, an unprecedented acknowledgment that there are in fact Syrians who do not worship Assad.

But we should not get ahead of ourselves. While significant in the Syrian context, they are nonetheless miniscule steps towards serious negotiation. Unfortunately, it seems very unlikely that the president would ever willingly accept democratic transition. With over 1000 dead and countless more forced to flee their homes, it is even more unlikely that the Syrian people will accept anything less. Syria is facing a long, drawn-out and very uncertain conflict.

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A recent article written for the Our Man In project:

Assad’s regime has not offered many examples of how to intelligently win a propaganda war but for once it seems to have made the right decision. As of Friday, a small and select number of foreign journalists were allowed back in the country, including Sky News, CNN and a reporter for the Sunday Times.

It’s taken a while but the government has finally realised that it cannot behave like it’s 1982. The state by no means has a monopoly on the media anymore and Facebook and Twitter have proven somewhat more reliable sources of news than souriyah, the state-run TV channel. A dictatorship can kick out the foreign press and churn out as much far fetched propaganda as it desires but while its citizens have access to mobiles and the Internet, the outside world will continue to watch YouTube videos of the security services shooting at unarmed protestors.

Unsurprisingly, the news that these first journalists have managed to gather so far has hardly been radically enlightening. Government minders have been carefully controlling what they can and cannot report on. Pro-Assad demonstrators outside the Ummayad mosque and street vendors selling the usual patriotic tack were amongst permissible subjects for interview. But if you want to go and see the angry protestors demanding the downfall of the regime? Yeah, fat chance.

Despite the inevitable presence of government minders the regime’s change in tactics can only be a good thing. It might be proof that Assad and his cronies want to be taken seriously by the outside world. Access to The foreign media will allow the regime to give its side of the story, even if it is… skewed, to put it politely. After all, everyone eventually gets bored of being painted as a blood thirsty monster.

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