How to Cover Syria from Beirut, Lebanon
Based on the coverage of Syria in US newspapers, it has become possible to identify certain characteristics of this coverage from Beirut.
1. Write the articles but rely on a number of poorly paid local stringers who can translate and interpret for you.
2. Call the Hariri press office and the press offices of Syrian exile groups to basically direct you as soon as you arrive in the city.
3. You don’t have to leave your home: the job requires the use of Skype extensively. You don’t have to look for Skype addresses: the Hariri press office and its allies in the Syrian exile opposition will provide you with names and can even make up names for you.
4. It is OK to be emotional in your coverage in sympathy of the armed Syrian groups, just as it is NOT OK to be emotional in covering the Arab side of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
5. Cover human suffering extensively, unless it is caused by Syrian armed groups themselves.
6. Don’t cite the real leaders of the Islamist-led Syrian exile groups: instead, cite Syrians living in Western countries in order to give a Westernized face to the Syrian exile opposition.
7. Try to minimize the Saudi-Qatari-Kuwaiti-Turkish role on the side of the Syrian armed groups.
8. Feel free to engage in fund-raising campaigning in you articles by constant references to the poverty of the armed groups and their lack of arms and equipment. Show a few tears too.
9. Make an attempt to show the humanity of the armed groups: pictures of a child fighters should underline that they are children after all and that they represent the humane face of the armed groups.
10. Don’t talk to two sides in the conflict. One side (the side supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar) is sufficient.
11. Remember: car bombs are not that bad when used by the side supported by the US. Car bombs are only heinous weapons of destruction when used by enemies of the US.
12. In articles about foreign intervention in Syria, remember that intervention by Saudi Arabia, Qatari, Bahrain, Turkey, Jordan, Libya, NATO, Israel, EU, and the US is not really intervention. It is merely humanitarian gestures of goodwill. Foreign intervention only refers to Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.
13. In covering Lebanese intervention in Syria, remember that we are talking only about Hezbollah. Intervention (military and otherwise) by Hariri and Salafi groups does not count and does not warrant intervention.
14. Remember that the yardstick of professional journalism in covering Syria is the media of Saudi princes and the Hariri family.
15. Rumors and fabrications spread by Hariri and Saudi media are “fit to print” if they serve the propaganda purposes of the US-led coalition.
16. Prejudice and bigotry against Alawi is essential for understanding the conflict in Syria. Please refer to all Alawis, including babies, as Shabiha. This will make it easier to justify their murder by armed groups.
17. Try your best to conceal the heavy Islamist and fanatical leadership and membership of the armed groups. Instead, try to find someone wearing jeans and claim that he speaks for the liberal and secular armed unit.
18. Any story of defection by one person, even if a soldier, or an assistant to a driver of a minor clerk in the local government recycling plant should be given prominent coverage.
19. Please forget about our past hostility to al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera has now changed and we regard it as an exemplary channel representing the magnificent propaganda of the Qatari royal family.
20. Hariri family will provide you with names and phone numbers of their men in the Lebanese Internal Security department and those are willing to provide any information or rumor that are against Hezbollah interests and you may cite those individuals as “senior Lebanese government security officials.”
21. Israeli interests and propaganda should be heavily represented in the coverage, and Israel should be portrayed as the friend of the Syrian people, its occupation and attacks on Syrian territory notwithstanding.
22. Just like the coverage of the Iraqi exile opposition prior to 2003, please remember that all Syrian exile opposition figures are smart, articulate (even in the case of the Cicero of Syria), and really funny.
23. In talking about Syrian chemical weapons, please don’t mention the Israeli arsenal of WMDs. Instead, and to make Israelis always look like victims, use pictures of Israelis posing with gas masks whenever you write about Syrian chemical weapons.
24. Remember, you are serving to boost morale and not only to “cover” the story. Every week you need to write something to the effect that Bashar’s regime is falling and that the rebels are just about to take over downtown Damascus.
25. It is important to remind readers that 99 percent of the Syrian people support the US and Israeli roles in Syria and that 99 percent of them fiercely oppose the regime. Only scoundrels and thugs still support the regime.
26. In underling the success of the Syrian exile opposition in gaining support among all minorities in Syria, the Hariri press office in Beirut will provide you with the phone numbers of a Christian, a Druze, a Kurd, and even an Alawi who oppose the regime.
27. Knowledge of Arabic – as always in covering the Middle East – is not needed at all provided you know what a falafel sandwich looks like.