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Scrutiny
  
Misinformed media
Morphed videos, tampered pictures, and misinformation drive Western media reporting on Syria
30/05/2012

International media coverage on Syria is often based on flimsy grounds. A report of a 3-year old child battered by Assad’s forces and having bruises all over her body was covered in hundreds of western media outlets that created nothing short of a storm in a teacup. This media campaign’s entire basis was nullified after 3 days when it was found out that the girl child’s identity and her battered condition was nothing but a figment of imagination.

It isn’t entirely surprising. Top notch media giants like CNN, BBC and France 24 report from second hand sources regarding Syria. Most interestingly, the main material for such ground-reality-check stories is sourced from a UK-based NGO called The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which is partially funded by western governments. Most of the Western media houses, including the likes of BBC, The Guardian & The Telegraph rely on a man named Rami Abdulrahman of SOHR for Syrian stories. However, in a shocking revelation, it was unearthed that this man doesn’t exist on the roster of SOHR!

Due to the lack of primary sources of information, the reportage is often full of contradictions. For instance, a reporting spree that sustained for 10 days narrated a back-to-the-wall situation for Baba Amr and its people, who were trapped in their houses against a counter offensive by Syrian forces, which was supposedly creating a humanitarian crisis there. The Syrian army supplied this piece of information as Western journalists were barred from being in the country for a first hand conformation. The report was covered in the most distinguished houses like CNN, France 24, The New York Times and The Washington Post. However, the Syrian Army changed their stand with counter claims that the civilians were relocated to safe zones! While the media as well as the Free Syrian Army admitted that there were hundreds of armed fighters in Baba Amr, every armed fighter who died in the battle was somehow shown as civilian to swell the number of civilian causalities. More interesting, however, is the story of ‘Syria Danny’, a 22-year-old British citizen of Syrian descent, who travelled to Homs during the year end and started appearing as a witness on western media channels, especially CNN. His daily ritual would include videos showing him ducking as shots were fired in the background, while he begged for armed intervention from the West and Israel. His, as well as CNN’s, luck ran out when a video appeared exposing how he asks his friend to start firing when he goes live and how footage from Libya was used. Similar wrong reporting appeared in BBC too!

Similarly, one Mousab Azzawi, claiming to be working for SOHR was paraded by BBC and CNN during live programs for no less than two months. Later, it was proven that the fellow had never seen even the inside of the SOHR campus, leave alone working for them. In the same month, a blog purportedly written by a lesbian woman in Syria, which described among other things, the massacre by Syrian forces, was picked by all the above mentioned visual and print outlets. A month later, it was revealed that the owner of the blog was one Tom MacMaster, an American studying in Scotland.

These are a few glaring examples of how the media covers the Syrian uprising. Every story, including all of Reuters, AP and AFP, uses the statements of activists as the basis of reportage. Personal opinions are being presented as facts with little or no verification. Clearly, these so-called activists and experts have seen a chance to earn a few quick bucks and are happily doing so. But the press has remained rather conspicuously silent. These stories have been extremely popular, earning them several accolades. Who would like to forego such opportunity to earn some brownie points – in the rat race with their competitors? But have they put some thought to the cost of this endless game of one-upmanship?

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