The Syrian state television reporter speaking live from the city of Aleppo was surprised when a bystander attacked him and struck him with his shoe, yelling in his face “the Syrian media are liars”. The young man then fled to seek refuge, leaving the reporter stunned and shaking.
The scene took place live on air, so the official channel could not avoid the incident.
This incident, ironically, came hours after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, who decided to call for the transmission of all official and unofficial Syrian television channels to be ceased, demanding that satellite networks such as “Arab Sat” and “Nile Sat” implement this.
In his coverage, the Syrian reporter who the young man attacked was addressing the repercussions of the Arab decision.
Although the decision to block official Syrian channels would please many, as did the scene of the young Allepo man throwing his shoe in the face of one of the regime’s media reporters, perhaps we need to examine the issue further.
After the Arab ministers’ decision, we find ourselves facing the eternal question: Will prevention and censorship solve the issue of the Syrian regime’s lies, propaganda and fabrications?
Let us examine how the regime has operated throughout the Syrian revolution, especially with regards to the media, one of the most impotent means of confrontation that al-Assad has come to rely upon.
The regime, through its media, gambled on a strategy of deception and lies and did not hesitate to use any excuse, from crudely claiming that crowds of Syrians were demonstrating to give thanks to the rain, to interviewing “ordinary” people in different locations and circumstances, showing them to be citizens loyal to the regime. This is in addition to many other fabrications and inventions, some of which raised condemnation and denunciation, and others which drew laughter and ridicule. These practices have led a broad segment to argue that this lying media machine must be blocked.
Repressive, authoritarian regimes are often characterized by the Syrian example of not being highly qualified or effective in their use of the media. This usually translates into a miserable failure to convince the public, but this incompetence can in fact come to the advantage of such regimes, especially when they are faced with the possibility of their broadcasts being censored.
It has been proven to us and the world time and time again that prevention and censorship doesn’t work, firstly because technological advances can now circumvent all attempts at containment, and secondly and more importantly because the basic principle is freedom of expression, no matter what your position or opinion. Censorship would also prevent us from exploiting the Syrian regime’s wretched media to serve the revolution and supply it with greater momentum, and likewise the block would give weight to the regime’s discourse that it is a victim of international measures.
The channels that are loyal to the Syrian regime, whether directly or otherwise, have not strengthened the position of the regime before or during the revolution. On the contrary, these channels have contributed to the marginalization and weakening of the regime and its image, and the decision to block them will only serve to strengthen the regime, among the pro-regime circles at least.
Likewise, had the Syrian media been banned, we would not have seen the young man from Aleppo confronting a reporter with his shoe.