The media is also responsible for the victims of the Syrian War

By Juliana Medeiros

With the landmark of the ten years of the Syrian War, newspapers and TV channels around the world, bombard us with their “humanitarian” reports, with images of fatal victims or cities and towns plagued by the conflict. The unique narrative – also present in most documentaries – is: “a group of Syrians initiated protests for democracy and was brutally prevented by the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad”. Seriously? It is unbelievable that 10 years later this continues to be the narrative.

This Sunday night (28), in the Fantástico program, the Brazilian Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro – member of the independent UN commission that investigates human rights violations in Syria – said that in the Syrian War, the forces with “greater air fire power” are those of Russia and Syria, and that these countries therefore “bear the greatest responsibility” for human rights violations in the conflict. The report did not question, but instead reaffirmed this mistaken, misleading and superficial reading of the conflict.  Without getting too much into the merits of Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict, I will say that Russia has certainly played a more constructive role than NATO did in Libya in its 2011 operation which left that country destroyed and in chaos.  Moreover, I would ask why the US and Israel, which continue to bomb Syria, have been given a free pass by the mainstream media for their role in the Syrian conflict.

One thing that needs to be considered on the Syrian issue is the immense contingent of citizens, both civilian and military, who continue in the war fighting against terrorists who are advancing on their borders. Such terrorists groups, heavily armed, have the support of enemy countries, such as the US, Israel, Turkey, UK, Saudi Arabia and many others. Treating this war as a mere insistence by Bashar al Assad to maintain power, 10 YEARS LATER, also means treating thousands of Syrians as mere supporters of a “dictatorship”, who acted and are still acting to simply murder their own countrymen. This narrative is dishonest and cruel.

The media, as Rede Globo did in this report, purposely ignores this side of the story and does not even mention the responsibility of these invading countries and their interests. And there is a plethora of interests at stake in the region. Syria is, in this context, the country that decided to resist a secular project of destruction. There are, for example, two extremely important ports in Syria, Latakia and Tartous, which face Europe and, due to their strategic position, everything needs to go through there, including oil and gas pipelines. Why is that never mentioned in these reports?

The refugee and migration tragedy has also been exploited by the mainstream press in order to demonize al Assad and Russia and to exonerate the West. But few journalists ask, for example, about the average Syrian’s view of the political situation in their country, lest they receive answers that are inconvenient to the prevailing narrative.  The truth is that most Syrians who have left have done so not because of their opposition to the Syrian government, but as the result of a cruel war which continues to be fueled by the West and which has driven millions from their homes and towns. 

If the purpose of journalism is to gather facts to tell a story, this is not what has been done by the hegemonic media in relation to recent conflicts. Gathering random images of children crying or mutilated by war and interspersing them with the image of Bashar Al Assad who is casually referred to as a”dictator”, is not an honest way of doing journalism. In 2011, during the bombing and invasion of Libya, the very same was done by the mainstream press. Hours of news stories in which images of explosions were presented with a narrative that it was all “Gaddafi’s fault” led the public to passively accept the justification that would follow when NATO countries ceaselessly attacked Libyan territory and destroyed Africa’s largest HDI.

What this type of reporting does is to reinforce the imperialist narrative to continue putting billions of dollars into a war – more precisely, a foreign invasion – which they justify as “humanitarian intervention”. They destroyed the country’s infrastructure, the economy, the lives of thousands of people under the cover of the prevailing Western narrative of a good-versus-evil fairy tale.

I cite here a 2012 article by Professor Claude Fahd Hajjar about the report of this commission at the time:

“It draws attention when we read published excerpts from the report, in which the conflict in Syria is classified as “non-international armed conflict ”, which means “civil war ”. How is the conflict non-international when the presence of jihadist, Salafist and foreign fighters have been found in Syria, as stated in the same Report?”

Over the years, claims have been made that the Syrian government forces are using chemical weapons against their own people. The reports were supported by images, for example, of children coughing and people shouting for help or medical assistance. Every time such images appeared, political leaders around the world, especially in warmongering countries in the West, stood up with the intention of generating matrixes of opinion for some military action based on the justification of “saving the Syrians” from the terrible dictator. And this same narrative is reproduced in Brazil, without any verification; the Brazilian media  simply reproduces the claims of international agencies and does not have correspondents on the fronts of war. On the contrary, ironically, the few correspondents we have live in Tel Aviv and it is from there that they comfortably narrate, for example, the war in Syria. Not by chance, Israel is one of the countries that bomb Syrian territory every other day, even now during the pandemic.

The very concept constructed by the media of a “moderate” opposition to Assad is a fantastic tool when one observes that this same opposition has always been linked and indebted to terrorists – from the Islamic State to Al-Qua’ida – in a conflict that, if not won by the Syrian government,,  will surely result in a fundamentalist Islamic regime coming to power and leaving Syria on the brink of bloody anarchy as has already occurred in Iraq and Libya.

Still citing an article by Professor Claude, in which she dismantles one of the arguments used by the media and the “independent investigation commission” in Syria:

“It is not the veto of China and Russia at the UN Security Council that hinder dialogue and the search for a civilized solution to the conflict in Syria, but rather the blatant interference by NATO, the USA and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) who from the beginning have planned to overthrow the Syrian government by criminally supporting the ELS, infiltrating Salafist groups and enticing deserters with sums paid by Qatar”

Journalists who stood up against this hegemonic narrative abound, such as the late great Robert Fisk, Canadian Eva Karene Bartlett, Australian John Pilger, British filmmaker Vanessa Beeley and  British reporter Lizzie Phelan, who have so often covered war fronts in both Libya and Iraq, Gaza and Syria. What normally happens to journalists who take this position is to be ridiculed and treated as lunatics by colleagues from these same hegemonic traditional media.

International journalists, especially professionals committed to their biographies, must decide whether they want, once again, to be complicit in these thousands of deaths, injuries and refugees. Because in the end, that is what they are: accomplices to the tragedies in Syria, Libya, Gaza which have claimed thousands of victims who are now insisting on being recognized as part of the  historical record of the war.

The insistence on this hegemonic narrative about what happens in Syria, with journalists lending themselves to the role of messengers of the media barons, is one of the reasons why the conflict has no prospect of an end in the medium term and but instead risks further escalating into a direct confrontation between the US and Russia in the region. 

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