Western Journalist: Visa Denied

Item number five on UN Envoy Kofi Annan’s 6-point plan for Syria is the following:

“(5) Ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a non-discriminatory visa policy for them.”

At a delicate moment in the hard-fought Syrian conflict that could potentially destabilize the entire Middle East, the United Nations believes getting more journalists into Syria is one of the six most urgent actions to consider?

Why? Are foreign reporters trained in special “observer” skills – with unique truth-detecting abilities bubble-wrapped in bullet and mortar-proof goop? And what will they see that Syrians – who know Syria best – cannot observe for themselves?

What the UN is really demanding – let’s be honest here – is for the Syrian government to open up the country to “Western” journalists. Yet, in all the conflicts covered in recent years, I cannot recall one that has been more badly covered by the mainstream western media than this Syrian crisis.

Almost to a person, western journalists are blaming their substandard coverage on the fact that they have been denied entry into Syria. And also – to a person – they seem to think that the world needs them there to understand what is going on inside the country.

Paul Conroy, the Sunday Times freelance cameraman who was injured by an explosive in Homs in February, tells the BBC’s Hard Talk that Syrians need their events verified by people like himself and his now-deceased colleague, war correspondent Marie Colvin, in order to be believed:

“It is a sad state of affairs that it does need people to go in…and actually be Western and be official journalists to make it real in the public eye.”

Is that like a Western-journalist-verification-stamp of some sort? Does it come with a guarantee – for accuracy in reporting?

Because, right now, I honestly cannot think of a group of people less capable of verifying things in Syria than western journalists. And it is not because they aren't physically there or can't string together more than two words in Arabic. It is largely because they feast at the trough of their own governments’ narratives on All Things. Western journalists are heady with a sense of righteousness leached from the oxymoronic “western values” shoved down our collective throats. Those same western values that demand “accountability” and “transparency” from all nations – while offering cover for western governments to hack their way through Muslim and Arab bodies in endless "national security" wars.

Do tell… Which major mainstream western media outlet has ever fundamentally questioned their government’s narratives on these wars? Which major western journalist risked career for truth on affairs related to the Middle East? Give me the name of that brave western network reporter who disrupts press conferences regularly with inconvenient questions on weapons sales to Gulf dictatorships – and has his bosses go to the wall to ensure he remains in the White House press pool. Show me the western reporter at the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, BBC, France 24 who has made a career of doggedly questioning Israel’s disproportionate use of force against civilian populations – a journalist who sticks a microphone under Sarkozy, Obama or Cameron’s nose and bellows: “What fucking Peace Process are you chaps banging on about?”

No? Not one? Come on!

“No Syrian Visa” is just a convenient excuse for the lazy and sloppy reporting of western media in this Syrian conflict. It is a handy sound bite these days – one that quite deliberately ignores the Arab League Monitors' January 2012 Report that 147 foreign and Arab media organizations were operating in Syria during their month-long observations.

"No Syrian Visa" tries hard to distract from the reality that most western journalists never actually go out to the front lines of conflict when filing their stories. Increasingly, reporters are sent out in organized pools by host governments – or in the case of recent US-initiated wars in the Middle East – by the invading armies.

"No Syrian Visa" selectively forgets that entering US-foe Syria as a journalist today is no more difficult than waltzing into US-ally Saudi Arabia - or US-ally Bahrain, when Formula One cars are not racing there.

And "No Syrian Visa" will blush hard when recalling that there was no similar collective western media outrage when the government of Israel declared "No Gaza Entry" as it pounded Palestinian populations in 2009.

Glossy Journalists Seek Content Not Facts

No. The problem with western reporters is that they are past their due date – remnants of an industry we once believed brandished standards of objectivity we never actually witnessed.

They are news-as-entertainment professionals - packaging glossy corporate content for maximum distribution and big bucks. The goal is not objective reportage. Their targets are quantifiable and highlighted in a business plan somewhere. Success is based on a simple formula: stay within parameters “understandable” to a wide audience that devours sound bites and familiar storylines on the hour, every hour. Like trained seals whose every desire, instinct and buying pattern has been measured by corporate media’s marketing department for the consumption of its advertisers, the audience demands satisfaction – and western media delivers it.

With the exception of a few proud holdouts, western media has made a beeline for the sexy story in Syria – which is essentially the fairytale of the “Arab Spring” with a little twist: Bad regime, good activists – but kick out this dictator and it’s a three-for-one, with Iran and Hezbollah tossed in as a bonus.

There are only three guiding rules for most western journalists inside or outside of Syria: 1) only quote anti-regime populations, 2) do not seek out independent domestic opposition figures, 3) evidence is unimportant, as long as you loosely "source" it:

They head straight for the Syrian activist, the anti-regime demonstration, the man with the gun in a “hot spot.” These are one side of the Syrian story, for sure. But you will not find mainstream western journalism broadcasting a pro-regime rally of tens of thousands, the national flag painted on the faces of Assad supporters – young and old - waving posters of their president. Pro-regime Syrians, a majority of whom voted in a national referendum in February to adopt constitutional reforms, are never interviewed by these reporters.

You will not find western journalists side-stepping the NATO-friendly Syrian National Council (SNC) “opposition” to interview the dozens of domestic Syrian opposition figures – most who have spent years in regime prisons – but who also unanimously reject the militarization and internationalization of the conflict; i.e., “non-Syrians butt out.”

And most importantly, you will never find mainstream western journalism seeking out “evidence” to support the false narratives of their governments. Who is included in the daily death count reported around the world? Who has killed thousands of Syrian soldiers? Who is killing children in Syria? Who is killing journalists in Syria? Who stands to gain from these deaths? Who stands to gain from this video footage or still photo emailed to my desktop? How do I know that plume of smoke was caused by a regime mortar? Who is the sniper? Why do so many Syrians still support Bashar al-Assad?

Propaganda As a Weapon of War

The “Big Lie” is a propaganda technique used liberally by western governments in the Middle East. The Big Lie refers to “the repeated articulation of a complex of events that justify subsequent action. The descriptions of these events have elements of truth, and the Big Lie generalizations merge and eventually supplant the public's accurate perception of the underlying events.”

Using Big Lie techniques in the Middle East are particularly easy because western media is so happily complicit in propagating one-dimensional stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims. These assumptions are programmed so deeply, that even after months of watching on our TV screens disparate populations of all backgrounds and political convictions rally to reshape their governing systems…we still see regional events only through the prism of a one-size-fits-all Arab Spring.

The US Military’s Special Forces Unconventional Warfare manual describes ways to overthrow a government outside of a conventional combat format. In a section headlined “Will of the Population,” the manual explains ways to overcome popular support for the existing national government and alter natural hostility to foreign intervention:

“Information activities that increase dissatisfaction with the hostile regime or occupier and portray the resistance as a viable alternative are important components of the resistance effort. These activities can increase support for the resistance through persuasive messages that generate sympathy among populations.”

The manual expounds on this in another area: “The USG (US Government) begins to shape the target environment as far in advance as possible. The shaping effort may include operations to increase the legitimacy of U.S. operations and the resistance movement, building internal and external support for the movement, and setting conditions for the introduction of U.S. forces. …The population of a recently occupied country may already be psychologically ready to accept U.S. sponsorship, particularly if the country was a U.S. ally before its occupation. In other cases, psychological preparation may require a protracted period before yielding any favorable results.”

The Syrian crisis is not about reforms any longer – it has become a geopolitical battle for influence in the Middle East, with NATO, the GCC and BRIC nations taking sides. Western media fails to address this larger picture, so glaringly obvious to people in the region. Instead it focuses almost entirely on the “David vs Goliath” or "good vs evil" themes that appeal to a broad audience of dumbed-down media consumers. These populations in turn become perception "leaders" when they back foreign military adventures in opinion polls broadcast back to us by - you guessed it - western media. And in that neat trick, your western government checks off a tick-box called "citizen approval."

But Syrians have approved no such thing. More than a year after the first anti-government protests - which have never grown into the hundreds of thousands and millions experienced elsewhere in the region - Syrians have not ejected their leader, nor is there any evidence that the majority of Syrians wish to do so. The constitutional referendum in February, which a small majority of Syrians approved in an excellent turnout, should have been some indication for the media that popular sentiment is not necessarily reflected in an unverifiable cellphone image.

The daily casualty statistics coming out of Syria are deliberately misrepresented as regime "kills," satellite photos of alleged regime shelling contradict the dominant narratives, activists faking events begs the question "why would they need to falsify evidence if the regime is so brutal?" But western media hears and sees nothing that doesn't suit their formulaic narrative.

There is no better example of how mentally embedded western media has become with the Syrian “opposition” (itself a very broad and mixed bag), than a recent incident with CNN in Homs. Correspondent Arwa Damon and her non-Arab crew were tipped off about a potential pipeline explosion, so they pre-positioned their camera in a window frame facing the exact location of the anticipated bombing. When the pipeline explodes some time later, Damon and her crew look exultant – almost drunk on their success. Scoop? Try complicity in an act of terrorism. Can you imagine them doing this if the target was an American installation in Iraq or a NATO depot in Afghanistan? They would never live it down.

Reality Check

A year after the first small protests in Syria, the Syrian government stands strong, bolstered by its many constituencies, and spared the mass defections experienced by other Arab leaders. It appears that propaganda is not enough to shake the foundations of all Arab states. Now is the time for western media to ask why they got it so wrong. And some are indeed questioning their information, sources and assumptions.

There are western journalists who are doing a more than creditable job of writing about Syria from outside the country – the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn and The Guardian’s Seumas Milne come to mind. Please feel free to list other responsible, professional western journalists in the comments section below - I am sure we all want to celebrate their courage and increase their page views.

As for the others, their arrogance and cowardice is dangerous. False narratives have emboldened Syrians and other regional actors to act incautiously, angrily, even euphorically, when they might have benefited from nuance and calculation. People have died in the spinning of this conflict.

It is clearly time to challenge the dated concept that mainstream western media is impartial, objective or professional in their coverage of Mideast affairs. But we shouldn’t just bemoan this injustice in yet another stream of impotent essays and editorials. We must drag this industry of disinformation into the public arena, and make them accountable throughout the region by acting to affect ratings and readership.

Kofi Annan needs to immediately drop item number 5 on his Syria plan. While freedom of speech is important to uphold - even more so in times of strife - today, mainstream western journalism is nothing more than another face of the "external intervention" he so gravely warns against. Toss those western journos out of Syria unless they can demonstrate independent, objective, responsible reporting of this conflict. False narratives are costing Arab and Muslim lives. And media "combatants" need not apply to practice their craft in this region any longer.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

Note: This article on the western media's coverage of Syria has been censored by AOL-Huffington Post

Comments

Sharmine is a ridiculous cheerleader for the bogus "mumana'a" camp and I don't remember her saying a single word against the allies of Hezbollah who came to power on American tanks, proving that she is just as sectarian as Hezbollah.

Excellent article Sharmine and I believe it your anger (and the anger of many Arabs as well) should also be directed at Arab journalists, some of whom we thought would make a difference in the long struggle for some independence from the western media.
You are right about many of the criticism you have directed at the western media. The same should be levelled against the Arab media since it has been so totally irresponsible in its reporting not only of the Syrian crisis, but of other events in the Arab world as well. The resutl of such reporting: major crisis in at least four Arab countries in a war that has been deviating our attention from our main enemy; Israel that has been reakin havoc on Palestinians in the occupied Palestine.
Tha battle for Syria, the only remaining logical and secular country in the Arab world will be hard. Western journalists (and Arab) will play a destructive role in this war if they could.
The funny thing is that while they continue to compalint about the lack of visas to Syria; I see them there all the time. All you have to do is to take a look at one of the press conferences held by Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Mu'allim to see at least two or more dozens among theose present and asking questions. They usually include journalists from the BBC, Le Figaro, and many others.
Keep up your great work. At a time when most are praising democracy in the West and in places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, we know that it is Syria that will make the real difference in the battle between good and evil. Monarchies of the Gulf allied with the colonialist West can only be evil. There can be no democracies under such regimes unless their systems are radically changed.

Sorcery Not Journalism.

For a self-claimed "commentary writer and political analyst" to spend her time firing shots and salvos at the notion of free press and journalistic freedom, in particular access right to reporters through Syria, is shameful and demeaning at least.

Ms Sharmine Narwani wants us, for her ulterior motives, to zap out our memories of horrendous events that took place in Syrian and around it. Events that were kept in the dark until outside journalists exposed them: here are a few.

1- The slaughter of thousands of people in the city of Hama in February of 19982 was exposed by the "Voice of Lebanon" through a secret reporter in Syria! Certainly not by people of Ms Sharmine Narwani’s treatise and sorcery!

2- The 1997 bombing of bus in Damascus (97 killed) was leaked by a French journalist of AFP who had to travel to Jordan to dispatch his work. Certainly not by reporter of Assad’s TV!

3- When the enemy jets destroyed the Syrian facilities at Deir Al-Zour on September 7, 2007, The New York Time broke the news after 4 days of the bombingt! Certainly not by Tichrine and its anomalies of papers in Lebanon and Iran!

4-When CBS news broke the news about Abu-Ghreib torture; it was a pro-Zionist and pro-Israel station that exposed the Occupation Forces! Certainly not by the diligent investigative work of the Bravda of Russia or the Kihan of Tehran!!

The above is by no means an exhausted list of journalistic achievements done by western reporters in the middle of the Arab-Zionist clash. Certainly Western MEDIA establishments tilt towards their sponsors (Zionist or not.) But can you doubt the authenticity and neutrality of The Christian Science Monitor, just as a first example?

Some amateurish, however, think that they can blind people around the world fearing the exposure of their true colors and ulterior motives -Butcher's Apologists and Protectors in Damascus!

Douri of the South,
BentJbail,
Lebanon

To those who don't know this imposter is none other than Karim Hari. He once posted as "Douri of the South" and forgot to erase his name as Karim Hari. Even if you weren't Douri of the South, who hails from Bint Jbeil, the heart of the Resistance, you will have won me over with your calm and rational argumentation. But given that you are from the South of Lebanon and you're still able to hold these positions shows that you are an objective and a careful observer (that was sarcasm btw).

Since Al-Manar and NBN attack the FSA as "mundasseen", were the members of Hezbollah who were massacred by the Syrian army also "mundasseen"?

Failure.

Indeed you failed to argue. Resorting to "sorcery" in order to figure out
my personal identity is akin of who you are!

Debunk this. In this comments section here Karim Hari, aka Douri of The South, aka Abu Umar, forgets to remove his name and signs off as a southern Lebanese who's anti Hez and anti Iran. He thinks that way he could finally get someone to read his drivel.

No, I'm not Douri or Karim, and you continue to evade the bitter reality of the cowardice of Hezbollah which is making takhween of all of the Syrian opposition while ignoring the treachery of your Afghan and Iraqi allies who rode to power on American tanks. Enough of the hypocrisy from the "mumana'a" camp

Failure ??? Failure? Indeed I didn't read the garbage that you wrote. Indeed I never read Karim Hari. So one day you just decided to write "Karim Hari" in the name text box just for the heck of it then?
Tell me Karim, I mean Douri, what were you doing in 2006 during the war? Were you helping the zionists fight hezbollah.

I tried to read the other two blog entries by AbuKhalil and Blumenthal, but I received a blank page instead.

The Assad regime blocks any link that contains the word 'Israel,' even if it is 'Sharmine and Lidia Love Bashar and Hate Israel and the NATO/GCC/Zionists and the Universal Conspiracy.'

Great article Sharmine. Spoon fed and conditioned, that's the world we live in.

In this article she concentrates on just one provision of the UN backed 6 point plan while conveniently fails to mention how the Syrian regime has NOT met any of the other points including the one she is arguing... I digress

"What the UN is really demanding – let’s be honest here – is for the Syrian government to open up the country to “Western” journalists."

No, what the UN and the rest of the world is demanding is for the Syrian government to remove the cloak of darkness that keeps fuelling the fog of war, which only plays to their prerogative, for as long as free press is not allowed in and given unfettered access this brutal regime can "control" the news outcome, and keep saying everything is fabricated in Doha because these videos are shot by dissidents and therefore their account does not count. Remi Ochlik and Marie Colvin were killed for that very reason.

"And it is not because they aren't physically there or can't string together more than two words in Arabic."

Last I checked she lives in comfortable London, and herself can barely string together a few words of Arabic. Is she talking about herself here?

"Western journalists are heady with a sense of righteousness leached from the oxymoronic “western values” shoved down our collective throats."

Again rather odd coming from someone that is or at least calls herself a "journalist" and lives in the West... Or is London not a Western city to her?

"Which major western journalist risked career for truth on affairs related to the Middle East?"

There are some that risked their lives which is worth a lot more than their careers, and ultimately died trying to tell the truth. Or are the death of Anthony Shadid, Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlik don't count, or how Arwa Damon, Paul Conroy, Mani and countless others risked their lives because this criminal regime would not allow it.
How about Nir Rosen a figure that is despised now by the opposition because he was willing to sell out for a scoop and access, does his work in Syria no count as well? I would like to see this so called "journalist" try to embed herself for one day in one of the hot spots around Syria and prove her "truths".

""No Syrian Visa" tries hard to distract from the reality that most western journalists never actually go out to the front lines of conflict when filing their stories. Increasingly, reporters are sent out in organized pools by host governments"

Those are called government minders, its why journalist risk their lives to be smuggled into Syria, something this pathetic excuse of a journalist has no clue what it means.

She wonders why nobody other than Akhbar publishes her crap, no Sharmine the Western Media does not want to publish your crap because of a conspiracy but because it is nothing more than crap.

Thank you. That was such an excellent response. Now let's hear what Sharmine thinks of Nir Rosen.

Thanks Sharmine, you are smart enough to pay attention for those Zionist's satraps and their "comments".

Mrs. Sharmine in her article pretty much rehashes all of the regime propaganda we've heard so far and adds some more. I will be happy to pick into pieces some of her argumentation. Quite frankly the article is long and I am not sure how much of what I write is going to be read. Yet, there are some important points to make.

"Using Big Lie techniques in the Middle East are particularly easy because western media is so happily complicit in propagating one-dimensional stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims. These assumptions are programmed so deeply, that even after months of watching on our TV screens disparate populations of all backgrounds and political convictions rally to reshape their governing systems…we still see regional events only through the prism of a one-size-fits-all Arab Spring."

First of all, the one-size-fits-all narrative is what has been used and propagated by various regime media throughout the Arab Spring. Invariably, whether in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain or Syria, the anti-regime forces have been portrayed (as in Assad Akhbar newspaper) as a small minority of disgruntled and unhinged islamist militants who want to spoil the glorious, tough but socially just, regimes for the rest of the people.
There's been always of course also sinister foreign conspiracy, which has been responsible for their uprising. How funny it is, that this small bunch of renegades who operate only thanks to foreign backing manages to put up resistance even after a year and some!

If you'd look into writings of former Soviet bloc, you'd find exactly the same being said about the resistance across it in its official media. Yet look at the history.

"The US Military’s Special Forces Unconventional Warfare manual describes ways to overthrow a government outside of a conventional combat format. In a section headlined “Will of the Population,” the manual explains ways to overcome popular support for the existing national government and alter natural hostility to foreign intervention:"

Once again, the uprising that manages to defy the central government for over a year is being somehow tied to a foreign conspiracy, "enemy propaganda". Yet, what about Assad regime's own propaganda? Russian propaganda? Mrs. Sharmine is buying into it heavily, and it doesn't seem to concern her in the slightest.

"There is no better example of how mentally embedded western media has become with the Syrian “opposition” (itself a very broad and mixed bag), than a recent incident with CNN in Homs. Correspondent Arwa Damon and her non-Arab crew were tipped off about a potential pipeline explosion, so they pre-positioned their camera in a window frame facing the exact location of the anticipated bombing. When the pipeline explodes some time later, Damon and her crew look exultant – almost drunk on their success. Scoop? Try complicity in an act of terrorism. Can you imagine them doing this if the target was an American installation in Iraq or a NATO depot in Afghanistan? They would never live it down."

Where did you get the idea that they were tipped off about the explosion? Where, apart from regime reporting did you hear that? Certainly they haven't said such a thing and I haven't been able to discover the source of this statement elsewhere but in the aforementioned. This is pure slander, and might I add, you are liable to be sued for this. So I'd like to ask here: what is your proof?

"“No Syrian Visa” is just a convenient excuse for the lazy and sloppy reporting of western media in this Syrian conflict. It is a handy sound bite these days – one that quite deliberately ignores the Arab League Monitors' January 2012 Report that 147 foreign and Arab media organizations were operating in Syria during their month-long observations.

"No Syrian Visa" tries hard to distract from the reality that most western journalists never actually go out to the front lines of conflict when filing their stories. Increasingly, reporters are sent out in organized pools by host governments – or in the case of recent US-initiated wars in the Middle East – by the invading armies."

Mrs. Sharmine, what about Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik who were deliberately targeted by Syrian army? Wanna talk about them? Were they cowardly spin doctors when they got killed reporting that Assad regime is indiscriminately killing civilians - the definition of which includes journalists?

I was also going to attempt a point-by-point rebuttal, Michal, but it would be a complete waste of time... the author just throws out vague, conspiracy fuelled generalisations, spiked with words like "agenda" and "narrative" in the hope someone will take her seriously.

She doesn't even frame an argument, but vomits a fact-free screed – riddled with blatant contradictions. (There are no journalists there, but they still manage to run to nearest "hot spot"..?)

When someone, in all seriousness, can use the term "western journalist" to encapsulate an entire mindset or operating procedure, it's pointless even trying debate.

As I said earlier, drivel.

yawn...
Michal your dross is as predictable as the next Al Jazeera English and western media Syrian misdirection.
Great effort though, lots of words.

:~D

What about Marie Colvin being the cheerleader for NATO wars against Arabs and other non-Western people? Not mentioning NATO/Zionists murdering journalists on industrial scale?

And yes, NATO did the same in the East Europe, so now it is "free" to be a cannon fodder for NATO wars in the ME. Great example!

Lidia, /I am living in East Europe/. I am also absolutely delighted that you acknowledge the similarity between life inside the Communist Bloc and inside a country ruled by Baathists.

I, for one, am happy to live a life in freedom, with the ability to say what I want, go where I want, and peacefully change my government in accordance with wishes of the remainder of my compatriots. I am quite happy not to live under communist occupation and not to be thrown into prison for my personal beliefs or choices.

Ahhh yes, mrs. Sharmine and Assad Akhbar newspaper are at it again. Why would you want people to think for themselves, when you can instead have it all comfortably filtered for you by the regime?

I am not surprised that they are against opening up the county for journalists - after all they tend to cover such ugly things as torture of political prisoners, bombardment of civilians, the Shabiha raids and sectarian murder, plunder and rape.

Why would you want to upset the ceasefire by something so ridiculous as journalistic oversight? No coverage - no bombardment! Assad regime definitely doesn't want that on people's TV screens.

I am just wondering how much is Assad Akhbar getting paid for this?

Why would Michal want people to think for themselves, when he can instead have it all comfortably filtered for you by NATO, Saudi and Qatar "news". Just like about Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain and so on.
I wonder, how much exactly FSA got payed by GCC royals? They are payed, officially, unlike the slander by Michal.

Have you forgotten the billions that Hezbollah's allies took from the West? Why didn't Hezbollah utter a single word against this?

When someone shilling for a dictator starts blaming the media, you know the argument – and their credibility – is well and truly lost.

Shame on Al-Akhbar for airing this shameless drivel.

I can't bear to read the sarcasm and conceit of some comments, to me they are like personal attacks; this is how I feel about you Sharmine! In this extraordinary world where so few voices of reason vie against the combined psychological weight of the whole Western world, you are like water in a desert.
But there are some others albeit so thin on the ground, as you say Milne and Cockburn, and as mentioned Patrick Seale recently wrote two good articles. But it is worth noting FYI that as far as I'm aware there is not a single journalist in the MSM in Australia who speaks against the Western narrative, while some are outspoken in their hysterical support for the Opposition.
I have recently been trying to get the ABC to interview Jihad Makdissi, and while they claim to try, contacts at the Syrian embassy report that NO visas have been issued, or sought by the ABC to visit Syria; they constantly mention the 'lack of access', and ignore mention of the AL observers comments on the 147 agencies ---.
So it seems we must rely on the internet based commentators; the big problem is that to get the idea into the mainstream, we must use the Mainstream media! Or just shout loudly in public.

You are a Tool.

spoken like a tool, anonymous!

Here's a very good article on the difficulties of reporting in Syria and the risks of being manipulated by activists which manages to be a bit more nuanced than the above: http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/syrias-propaganda-war/183/

One point that is not addressed above: what the author writes about Assad's popularity may or may not be true. But it does not address the core issue: the Syrian regime has been fundamentally undemocratic for a very long time. Maybe the people do want Bashar al-Assad; that's their choice, we can think that's a good or bad choice, but it's theird. But they have never, ever had the opportunity to choose the guy, and the system seems to have been geared around his maintenance in power come what may, including the use of repression and human rights abuses. Just because the protests are small, or the crackdown may not be exactly as brutal as the opposition claims it to be - the fundamental cause is still there, and still essential, and articles like the above, in my view, serve more to obfuscate this than to clarify it (it's the same issue with the claims of Iraqi soldiers throwing babies out of incubators in Kuwait - that turned out not to be true, but its lack of truth didn't change the fact that Iraq had invaded and annexed another country, a flagrant breach of international law. Equally, would the author's faith in the Palestinian cause be shaken if not turned out that not every abuse claimed to have been committed by the Israelis was true? Would this change the fundamental fact of the Occupation?).

I would be think it more useful to hear what the author actually thinks about the reforms that have been passed, to see if they have actually been implemented and made changes, to actually clarify what is going on (for what it's worth, based on my reading of the new constitution, some major issues remained (a key one was the actual level of legal accountability of the president, if the only body that could impeach him a) had him as a memberand b) was appointed by him. Not to mention the insistence on the religion of the President). It would be interesting to hear whether in the forthcoming elections people will genuinely have a choice between Assad and other people. Maybe it would be helpful to have some independent reporters who could come into the country and report on that, rather than having to rely on the opposition on the one hand, and SANA on the other. I think this would be more useful, frankly, than this kind of article.

About babies who were NOT thrown out. Yes, Iraq invaded Kuwait, but the truth about before and during the invasion, including the role of USA was not told, in order to USA to bomb Iraq. Given USA record of criminal colonial wars, the truth should be enough to people to start asking questions, not let USA imperialism Scott-free with another colonial crime.

The same is with Syria. Yes, Syria is not a democracy (let us pass a question of USA being one). But the fact - USA going to topple Assad not because he was not a democratically elected. USA never had any problem with supporting and simply installing the most murderous dictators, the same is true for today. On the other hand USA toppled and tried to a lot of democratically elected leaders, calling them dictators - for the last ex. see Honduras.

In short, the question here is not so much Assad's non-democracy, as NATO/GCC will for regime change, and the reason is Assad being an ally to Iran. Of course, Syrians should decide their fate and their rulers, but the NATO/GCC are the last people one needs to ask for helping them.

You capitalised only one 'not' in the above.

And FSA is now openly on GCC payroll, my style notwithstanding. I was right all along about the true nature of Syrian NATO/GCC revos, and a NATO leftist has no better answer then to nag. very mature

Many journos were given chances to report from inside Syria and some examples came as follows:

Liz Sly for the LA Times: "Hama seems quite, nice trees on the sides of the roads, life seems normal, but you can sense hidden feelings of anger".

In another quote: "The army says it pulled the tanks, we couldn't see tanks within our journey, however, Ahmad a street vendor says: There are tanks".

ABC's infamous interview with president Assad shouldn't be forgotten, Barbara Walters distorted, doctored, edited the entire interview to show the leader is disconnected and out of touch, some went to the extent of calling him crazy, when she pasted answers to different questions. Thanks to a second copy of the full interview kept inside Syria, her channel the ABC News had to rebroadcast the interview in full without editing, but harm was already done. (http://arabisouri.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/barbara-walters-assad-interview/)

CNN's crew and their involvement in blowing up oil pipes in Baba Amro in Homs is another proof of what kind of journos UN wants in Syria (http://democratic-syria.blogspot.com/2012/03/cnn-knew-about-september-11...)

It's endless..

(http://arabisouri.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/wmd-weapons-of-mass-deception/)

I think we should remove Liz Sly from Sharmine's list of benign journalists. Here are some of her tweets I came across while being enlightened by Syrian Commando's:

UN observers in Syria stayed home to do paperwork today, the day of the week when protests are held. They're making the AL mission look good.

After the hacking of Assad's emails, Syrian Electronic Army hacks opp leader Burhan Ghalioun's. No naked women yet.

How will it end? MT@LeShaque: Qatar Revolution page still at it, says: 20 prominent members of AlThani family defected.

Latest on the coup in Qatar; army has split, emir has fled. Unfolding live on Facebook now, but not actually in Qatar.

30 UN Observers aren't going to help dent losses at the Four Seasons in Damascus. They will be dramatically outnumbered by staff.

Activists worry constantly that Syrian regime is reading all their emails. Meanwhile, they've been reading Assad's emails.

UN Syria envoy Kofi Annan: "I am optimistic." Translation: "I failed."

Watching Syria regime TV Addounia report on #Gaza which is "being massacred while Arabs drugged by spring of death"

Many in Damascus wrongly believe Russia wd start WW3 for Syria. Scary.

Sharmine, this is standard information warfare; it was always thus. George Orwell (the author of 1984) became as pessimistic as he did because he was the editor of the BBC's Indian Service during WW2. What is new is the Internet itself, and this means generally private bloggers, and a few alternative news sites that follow the bloggers. All alternative news sites, if not all bloggers, have some sort of political allegiance, though it may not be to a recognised political party. In the US, the liveliest political area for many years has been a sort of theoretically right-wing, pro-capitalist anarchism. This occasionally topples over into neoconservatism, but generally it knows that the government ('congress critturs') cannot even be trusted to defend capitalism, let alone anything else. In geopolitics they therefore use the ambiguous term, 'globalists', to refer to the oppressors, whether homegrown or imported, because it no longer makes any sense to define the oppressors as either left or right wing. E.g. George Soros (left wing political funder) is not in opposition to the Koch brothers (right wing political funders), they're all coordinated through Bilderberg and the CFR. Having said all this, I recommend the Alex Jones sites (InfoWars and Prison Planet) and the work of Tony Cartalucci (Land Destroyer, blogspot.com). From those you can swiftly navigate out through the entire english-speaking alternative blogosphere, since they are rich in links.

Amazing article, as always!

I wanted to mention that by this week, I ended my 1st year of Not-Watching-Al-Jazeera-Arabic channel, after being addicted to it for more than a decade, and after believing their BS about Syria between March to the end of April 2011 (when Ghassan ben Jeddo resigned from it and said very clearly that they are lying).
Many of my relatives and ex-best friends are still under its spell, and that split us apart.

As for Western reporters, I recall Robert Fisk, who is famous to be so critical against All Governments of the world, and so supportive to All People of these nations and countries. He changed his tone after visiting Syria, and spoke about the victims and the martyrs of the Syrian army; however he seems that he had been effected again with all the mainstream media when he went back to Beirut.
Patrick Seale was ok too.

Paul Jay of the Real Network does a good job as well.

Nice title. I thought you'd for once be critical of the Syrian regime's (not government) curbs on freedoms, but you never fail to disappoint. Your title reminds me of the cover pages of Arab tabloids: "George Clooney Kidnapped [in a movie]."

Let's try and get some of your objective journalists into Syria. If they are vexed by their minders, you can always refer them to Hadeel/Scheherazade.

Your claims about the referendum, small protests and the supporting majority are really laughable. Don't you realise there are Syrians living in Syria who read what you write?

One last thing, you are the last person to speak about objectivity and selective views.

'Nice title. I thought you'd for once be critical of the Syrian regime's (not government) curbs on freedoms, but you never fail to disappoint.'

another anonymous contributor, who never fails to disappoint,.,.,because its syrian government(not regime!), which government has the support of most syians,..and heres why:

Partisangirl @Partisangirl Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
A school teacher has lost her left leg after her car was booby trapped with explosives in Hama... http://fb.me/I5kNv06Y
Retweeted by ✩ Syrian Commando ✩

http://lizzie-phelan.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/citizens-of-homs-if-army-le...

Very telling that you are quoting retweets by Syrian Commando, one of the most active trolls of the Shabiha Electronic Army since March 2011 who's been banned from countless forums because of his vulgar and obscene attacks on everyone who challenges his cotton-eyed narrative. Maybe next time you will quote SANA, Dunya and Rain TV. But you don't have to. Sharmine is already doing that.

yes, who needs Syrian Commando, when one could quote from NATO/Saudi/Qatari "media". Their commandos are better as well, they took time to piss on the bodies of murdered Afghans, for ex.

^ Lidia's comment is what one may call a "red herring"

But I'd choose to call yours a white elephant. Thanks Lidia and Brian for trying to counter these trolls; but I'm afraid if they can read Sharmine's article and still post this crap then nothing you or I can say will make any difference, leave alone make any difference to the rough beast slouching towards Byzantium.
It would pay them to have a look at her recent article about 'Hollywood in Idlib', and start asking questions like 'who benefits' and 'who is paying' and 'why Qatar' and 'what's with Belhaj' ???

Amusing, you insist on invoking Qatar and all that other stuff as its news to us (you're not the only one who follows this site extensively). Fact remains that Lidia pulled a red herring by totally dodging the issue of syrian cyber propaganda (via tweets in this case). Now go amuse me some more about white elephants and the Byzantines

would you care to stay on topic? why not invoke inquisition, russian revolution and a great leap forward? admittedly the author attemted no lesser a feat while sitting on the fence, contemplating her stockholm syndrome. western journalists - bad, no journalists bad but better than western journalists, and then there were all those 147 Lizzies and Websters aka non-Western (read 'resistance') 'journalists' on regime sponsored tours.

so there you have a 'oh look, a squirrel' kind of argument, which licenses one to rant about everything whatever the message, and the more fickle the message, the better.

and one morte point, if those western journaliosts have no business reporting in Syria, what business has milady preaching from her Western University of Oxford, that cradle of anti-Imperialist resistance?

Substance, please.

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