Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Syrian rebels and the media embroilment | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A group of Syrian rebels in the Azaz region stand accused of kidnapping Lebanese journalist Fidaa Aytani. This journalist risked his life to enter Syria and he is not the first media figure to be detained by the Syrian rebels. This renews talk about how long we can be silent about the abuse of our professional colleagues who are only doing their duty to cover the Syrian revolution?

Whatever the justifications of the kidnappers, they are carrying out crimes against the media as a whole when they took the decision to detain this Lebanese journalist, or as they portray it, “host” him! Ultimately, this will result in those who rely on the media’s enmity [against al-Assad] being the biggest losers. The media is the oxygen that any revolution around the world lives on. Without the support of the media, the Syrian revolution will lose everything that it has gained, particularly as it is in a tough situation requiring every sympathetic hand to stand with the Syrian people and their revolution during these difficult times.

I am not specifically defending the media of the revolution and its supporters, nor their opponents, but rather everybody in the media, including those working for the Syrian regime. They have the same rights as all media figures, namely that they are protected and their safety guaranteed, regardless of their positions and stances. This is our duty to them, despite our profound disagreement with their views. Protecting journalists during times of war is a duty, and this does not differentiate between positions and affiliations; this is a necessity for the media as a whole.

Without the courageous media, and the brave representatives, the Syrian revolution would perhaps not have been able to win the sympathy of not just the world, but the Syrian people themselves. Without respecting the profession of journalist – regardless of their political stances – the revolution will lose the support of even those in their own ranks, as well as the gains it has made. We blame the Syrian revolutionaries more than the Syrian regime, because they have a true cause, particularly as they are the party that is making the most gains from a media presence in Syria, regardless of their orientation. This is why the detention of the LBC reporter or the kidnapping of the Ukrainian report is something that worries all media professionals. Why should the Syrian rebels be afraid of a Ukrainian reporter, even if she is filing reports that serve the Syrian regime? The majority of the people have decided their stance towards the al-Assad regime after more than one year of controversy and violence. The majority of the world stands against the al-Assad regime, and so not much depends on what a Ukrainian journalist or western photographer report, even if they do not like the revolution. If the rebels Syrian rebels kidnap a female reporter because she says things on television that they do not like, then what is the difference between them and the al-Assad regime that imprisons and kills based on a word?

Our profession is based on recognizing the right of journalists to observe, enjoying safety and protection whatever the situation in order to do their jobs, particularly as without this newspapers and television channels would be unable to cover and report what is happening around the world. As for the journalists and reporters who go to the battlegrounds, they are not revolutionaries and do not have personal or national agendas, rather they are media professionals who are distinguishing themselves through their courage, embarking on adventures that go beyond the call of duty. Regardless of journalists’ positions and reports, we expect Syria’s rebels to be more noble and honorable in their dealings with the media than the Bashar al-Assad criminal gang!

We, as media representatives, cannot sit on the fence regarding the abduction of journalists, regardless of their political orientation or the organization or country they belong to. We cannot be silent on the lives of journalists being threatened in this manner. The Syrian rebels have the right to refuse to deal with the media figures they don’t trust, or to refuse to give information to media organizations they don’t like. However they don’t have the right to detain or abduct journalists simply because they are on the opposing side. This represents a violation of international rules and the norms that protects journalists and reports. By doing so, the Syrian rebels are undermining the profession that is most helping them, and confirming the image that the regime is putting forward about them. The Syrian regime has sought, since the beginning of the revolution, to kill and destroy the media, physically and materially. Damascus is aware that if it is able to divide the revolution and the media, this will be a great win for the regime, particularly as it wants to commit its crimes in the dark away from media scrutiny. The al-Assad regime is seeking to push the Syrian people to lose their enthusiasm, patience and willingness to sacrifice; this would result in the revolution losing much of the popularity and momentum it enjoys.