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Posts Tagged ‘media’

This is an article I wrote a while ago for the Our Man In project but only just got round to publishing:

The media environment in Syria is not conducive to journalism, facts or truth. Whether trying to understand the situation from inside or outside the country, the dearth of verifiable, factual or unbiased information is obvious. This would probably have something to do with the crippling censorship and rampant propaganda on behalf of the regime. While the government recently allowed a small group of foreign journalists back into the country, so far they have had trouble reporting on anything of real significance. Government minders have kept them on a short leash, rarely allowing them to stray far from the official press route. Continue reading at Our Man In Syria

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Egypt’s revolution was made for TV. Over the course of the 3 weeks of revolution, thousands of foreign journalists descended onto Tahrir Square to cover the inspiring, and often highly photogenic, uprising. Cairo was swarming with Western media’s most famous names, filing stories and submitting professionally executed video reports.

Syria is very different. Since the Assad regime first banned all foreign journalists from the country, getting information and media into the hands of the outside world has been a game dominated by amateurs, often at significant risk to themselves. Although a trickle of carefully chosen Western journalists were recently allowed back into the country, much of their reporting is focused on just how difficult it is to report on anything meaningful when the men in leather jackets are constantly breathing down their necks.

This edition of the Listening Post shows some of the difficulties facing Western journalists:

 

And so it has been left to an army of amateurs and freelance journalists working in secret to get the information out. Young, educated Syrians have contributed the most to this undercover operation, using a deft combination of YouTube and Skype to disseminate and coordinate. This article on the Amnesty International website, written by a journalist recently out of Syria, is an excellent insight into the risks involved in reporting from Syria. It also acts as a how-to guide for electronically dodging The Man.

A couple more articles written by the unofficial press pack in Syria:

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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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