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Syria Unravels - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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“From inside Hama: The true story.”

“Interviews and eye-witness accounts obtained in Hama away from the prying eyes of the Syrian security apparatus.”

“Our correspondent in Syria: Doctors treating protest casualties in secret clinics.”

We have seen headlines such as this in western media outlets and newspapers over the past two weeks. These media outlets were recently granted permission by the Syrian authorities to enter the country. This new development, namely western media and press being allowed into Syria, is something that is happening for the first time since the outbreak of the popular demonstrations against the regime, which resulted in the regime’s tanks, security apparatus and state media initiating a brutal campaign to suppress this uprising.

Although the regime taking this step came within the framework of it attempting to reduce internal and international pressure against it, the press correspondents are not being allowed to visit certain areas, including the anti-Bashar al-Assad demonstrations. Indeed the press is only being allowed to film and report on pro-regime demonstrations.

However it seems that the great resolve and determination of the Syrian protesters is only increasing and intensifying, to the point that they are now being able to get their message across to the foreign press correspondents. These correspondents have been stunned by the Syrian protesters initiative, for they did not wait for anybody to do them any favours but rather took their fate in their own hands and posted images and footage of the Syrian revolution on the internet themselves.

The conventional press reports that have begun to appear focusing on the Syrian protestors only confirm what we have already read, seen, and heard on the internet. The Syrian people were confronted with a vicious propaganda campaign, not to mention a brutal and violent campaign of suppression, at the hands of the Syrian regime. The Syrian regime attempted to portray the protestors as traitors, armed criminals, and foreign agents, but the facts that have begun to appear show that the Syrian protestors were ordinary people who took to the streets against the government, transforming themselves into paramedics, doctors, and citizen journalists. They took to the streets demanding freedom, filming their own peaceful protests. They defied the government sanctioned violence, exposing the regime’s brutal and cruel suppression of the protests.

Indeed one protester even went so far as to film his own death! A few days ago, footage was uploaded on YouTube of a young man filming the “Shabiha” (Pro-regime militia) firing on demonstrators. The video clip then shows an unclear figure shooting at the youth, who falls to the ground, before the screen goes black.

The reports by conventional media outlets that have started coming out from Syria have broken the Syrian activists’ monopoly on news coverage, without destroying the credibility of everything that they have filmed and posted on the internet over the past few months. However the fact remains that the western media’s grace period in Syria will not last long, and this can be seen in the recent attack on the US and French embassies in Damascus. The Syrian regime seems to have realized that the confrontation is not taking place in the conventional media, however even if allowing the conventional media to visit the US and French embassies does not contain any political message, this will still result in a confrontation with the west.

We have all heard dozens of statements by Western officials who couple their demands for protests to be allowed to take place, with demands for free and unbiased media coverage of said protests. Any protest loses much of its significance if there is no camera recording it, and once media outlets are given the chance to get in and cover these protests, any sort of suppression or crackdown will backfire disastrously against the regime. Protests will grow stronger as more media outlets broadcast news of them and the regime would be further weakened. This is the vicious circle that the Syrian regime is trying to deal with.

The only option left for the regime is the confrontation option. Reform and dialogue are nothing more than lies being promoted by the regime to buy time. Indeed, Syrian officials were issuing calls for dialogues even while their “Shabiha” militia were shooting protests!

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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