REPORTING SYRIA PART 2

The following is an interesting article in the Guardian on Saturday, which briefly lifts the veil of misinformation surrounding the situation in Syria http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/19/homs-syria-rebellion-assad

The important thing about this article is that it has appeared in the Guardian, which of all the British newspapers is the one which together with The Times has been the most aggressive in its reporting of the Syrian crisis.  The reporter cannot therefore be accused of pro government bias and in fact the article if anything reflects the anti government line being followed by the Guardian.  Moreover since the journalist who wrote the article visited Homs without the knowledge of the Syrian authorities he was not supervised or controlled by government minders who were not therefore in a position to monitor his interviews or to control what he could see.

Homs is supposed to be the Syrian city at the centre of the anti government protests.  Reports that have appeared have suggested that it has all but slipped out of government control and that armed clashes regularly occur there.  The article in the Guardian written by a reporter who has actually been to Homs does not support these claims.  It describes a city that is tense but quiet with a srong military presence but with the Syrian authorities very much in control.  The reporter saw no protests or signs of fighting though he claims to have heard short bursts of firing and a single explosion during the night.  Importantly he found shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants still open.  Anyone with any knowledge of civil conflicts knows that the first sign of unrest is when shopkeepers close their shops.  The fact that shops in Homs are open is a sure sign that the extent of the protests is being exaggerated.

Surprisingly enough the reporter also found some sympathy for the Syrian President as well as a great deal of cynicism concerning the motives of Turkey and of the Gulf Arab states.  There were also doubts about the existence of the anti government rebel army the western media has recently been writing about.  One informant told the journalist of rumours that Al Jazeera is paying $20,000 for film of unrest.  The reporter admits that on the evidence of what he saw in his journeys between Damascus and Homs talk of civil war is exaggerated.

This article is consistent with the pattern of reports that have been coming out of Syria ever since the start of the crisis. Reports that originate with the Syrian opposition speak of mass unrest and widespread violence.  Reports written by persons actually present at the scene of the unrest invariably describe a situation which whilst tense is by no means out of control.  Unfortunately the former reports vastly exceed the latter in number and are the ones that receive the attention.  Though it ought to be obvious that reports that originate with the Syrian opposition are by their very nature unreliable the western media appears to prefer them even to the more sober reports of its own reporters.

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