I find myself again quoting MP George Galloway: “You journalists need to have a memory span longer than two weeks!”.
The reason I am upset at the memory span of most journalists in main stream media is that they keep forgetting the Syrian opposition has a rich record in fabricating stories and videos for political purposes. But is it really a memory thing? Or do you, journalists, know what you are doing?
Al Houla (Houleh-Houlih) massacre, where is Danny Abdul Dayem?
Not long ago, and the night before the long anticipated UNSC meeting on Syria, CNN talked to Dany Abdul Dayem, an “activist” who gained fame for his contradicting stories he told BBC last year, and gave him the air to go on and on about the massacre in Khalidya, Homs. But later, videos leaked showing him apparently “cooking” the coverage. Aljazeera citizen reporter Khalid Abu Salah was also caught in other videos doing the same. Moreover, a footage from the massacre location showed militiamen gathering corpses and using inappropriate language when referring to them, something we do not expect from a person handling what he describes as martyrs (one militant was telling the other to “hold this goat”, referring to the dead man).
Yet, when the same group of people start talking about another massacre in Houla, mainstream media jump to taking their word for granted. In fact, no media channel, apart from Russian ANNA News, conducted any serious investigation in the issue (the ANNA report came not in favor of main stream media stories). It seems that the mere fact of seeing videos of dead people distributed by the opposition is enough evidence to conclude that the Syrian regime or Shabiha has committed a massacre. These stories were supported by “eye witness” testimonies. One famous testimony came from a child who allegedly played dead to escape the massacre. He talked about the international community and the role of tanks! Another testimony came from a “defected officer” who allegedly was there on leave, although he served in another city. These weak testimonies should make a reasonable journalist more skeptic. (One more example of scams media fell into is the BBC posting a picture from Iraq as one of the massacre).
But this has been the pattern since the beginning of the crisis. We all remember stories like the one of Zainab Al Husni, who became the iconic martyr on media outlets, until she appeared on the Syrian State TV, alive. Similar stories happened way too many times to give the opposition the benefit of the doubt, something we covered in some detail back in October 2011 in our report here. But the media does not seem to care about credibility of the sources they rely on.
I am not an animal, I am a human (cum kidnapper?)
The story of Mohamad Ahmed Abdulwahab, and his line that became the most watched Syrian Revolution promo on Aljazeera, “ I am a human not an animal!”, took a sharp curve last week. The man, portrayed by Aljazeera as an iconic civil activist, was identified by Lebanese freed hostages as a militiaman who participated in kidnapping them near the Turkish borders. Women who were freed by kidnappers, while their men stayed in hostage till now, described how this “civil activist” prayed with them on the Turkish side of the borders, before participating with other militiamen in kidnapping them shortly after entering the Syrian land. Did Aljazeera know he was a militiaman when they made him an icon? We don’t know, but we know his promo is still aired on Aljazeera every day!
Freedom of speech only comes after silencing all other voices
Apart from Almayadeen News Channel, still to be launched later this month, I have not heard any media outlet condemning the request made by Arab FMs to Nile Sat and Arab Sat satellite companies to shut down all Syrian channels, state and private. You may agree or disagree with Syrian channels, but how can democracy be built by silencing the other side? Nile Sat and Arab Sat also host disgusting media channels dedicated to spreading sectarian hatred, such as Wisal and Safa. But these channels were not targeted by Arab FMs. To them, it is a part of freedom of speech to spread hatred and sectarianism, but the Syrian channels, where Syrian Muslim and Christian clerics appear praying together are a menace to the Syrian people! If the Arab FMs have evidence that the Syrian channels did indeed jeopardize national unity, why don’t they show this evidence?
On the other hand, isn’t there any single journalist in the west who felt offended because of this resolution? What if NATO FMs decide to silence RT for example, would this be OK with BBC and France 2 journalists?
Our section is called “Eye on the Media”, how about silencing us as well? It is indeed a shameful age for journalism.