Syrian Television: What Should We Watch Tonight?

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Children walk near a Syrian government military vehicle partially hidden from view in Talbiseh near Homs 22 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Shaam News Network - Handout)

By: Bassem Alhakim

Published Thursday, May 24, 2012

TV channels for the Syrian opposition are rife, broadcasting emotive programs and attacking the regime, while the state channel acts as if nothing in the world is amiss.

The media scene has changed significantly since the eruption of the popular protests in Syria and the banning of private channels has become a thing of the past.

The boom of Syrian opposition satellite channels based outside the country (Jordan and Dubai, for example) indicates that the media war is as important as the battles on the ground.

Viewers switching between regime and opposition channels would think they are watching news from two different countries.

While state-run Syrian satellite channels are planning for the upcoming tourist season, opposition channels unleash concentrated attacks on the regime.

The Syrian opposition has set up 10 satellite channels with one thing in common: they all have an Islamist orientation.

The Islamist Shada al-Hurriyah channel, transmitting from Jordan, fills airtime with slogans. It addresses the "heroes rewriting the history of Syria," and tells the "villains" that the "blood of Syria's martyrs is not cheap."

They threaten "Bashar's criminals" and the "midgets of Maher Assad," saying that they will pay the price soon.

In one program, an officer from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) explains the current situation and describes masked Syrian civilians as "Aleppo's heroes confronting the treacherous and criminal regime."

The same channel also airs Islamic songs and documentaries, including On the Shores of Tears which talks about the suffering of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Deir Press Network (DPN), also Islamist, dedicates a song titled Fire Your Guns Without Mercy to the FSA.

The program Event Camera broadcasts the latest developments in the street and documents the arrest of university students for participating in a demonstration demanding the ouster of the regime.

The channel runs two banners at the bottom of the screen – one for the news and the other containing the opposition's texted-in comments.

DPN repeatedly broadcasts a comment by someone calling himself the "growler," who encourages "spilling the blood of anyone trying to infiltrate the ranks of the FSA."

The channel also runs scenes from Deir ez-Zor, accompanied by a banner reading: "Warplanes of Assad's gangs bomb Idlib neighborhoods and destroy its houses."

Al-Souri al-Hurr channel, also of the same Islamist character, screens the banner of "defending the Sunnis." It broadcasts reports on the protests and hurls personal insults against the Syrian president.

The channel also calls on the FSA to "kill Iran's mice" and "the rats of the Lebanese devil's party."

Souriya al-Ghad channel, managed by the preacher Abdul Hafeez Sharaf, runs a slogan saying: "Tomorrow is nicer."

Hadi al-Abdallah, member of the General Assembly of the Syrian Revolution, appeared on this channel's screen launching a fierce attack against the president, "who committed every possible crime against the people of heroic Homs."

This channel also allocates its banner at the bottom of the screen to paid messages from "Syrians in the decision-making capitals", in order to collect money.

"My protest costs me my life, your demonstration costs you US$25, so don't be Facebook men," says one banner.

Tawfik Hallaq appeared on a program on Souriya al-Ghad called "Syria Today" (produced by Atyaf Company), where he takes viewers’ opinions on whether restructuring the Syrian National Council is absolutely necessary and cannot be postponed.

The channel also broadcasts edited scenes showing the Syrian president laughing before quickly cutting to scenes of bloody massacres and soldiers stepping on people.

It cuts again to images of Foreign Minister Walid Muallem laughing at scenes of murdered children, the elderly, women, and youth "who were arrested, tortured, and killed." A child concludes the clip by saying: "Down with Bashar."

Souriya al-Shaab channel calls for "toppling the tyrant" and vows to take former Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam to trial in the Hague.

It shows scenes of "Assad's gangs storming the central prison and attacking the prisoners," while the top corner of the screen shows a countdown clock for the revolution.

Orient news channel, which was launched before the crisis, stopped broadcasting entertainment shows when the uprising began.

As well as bloody scenes and demonstrations, the channel now airs a report filmed by the Syrian community in London, which shows Syrians holding up placards in English that condemn the regime.

Barada channel keeps track of the developments through footage of scenes and telephone calls from the opposition, raising the slogan: "We will not surrender. Victory or death."


It's Happening on Mars

Countering the Syrian opposition media is Syria's official satellite channel which appears to be broadcasting from another planet altogether.

One presenter talks about shoe leather and the requirements of the craftsmen. She then talks about "putting the internal tourism house in order."

Ikhbariyah al-Souriya, the official news channel, takes a lot of time over a story on the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Cham FM takes advantage of its Nilesat frequencies and broadcasts its programs and music believing that the story will end happily, after the "rioters surrendered and are returned to their families, after they vow not to carry weapons."

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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