Starting from Tunisia, and spreading to all Arab capitals that are witnessing protest and uprising, the official security apparatus have dealt with the popular uprisings by claiming that the media, and satellite television channels, were biased and agents of foreign powers. This was solely in order to undermine and weaken the process of change.
Regimes struck by these popular uprisings have leveled such accusations at the media outlets covering them.
Last week, in a speech before parliament, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad repeated his criticism of satellite television stations, accusing them of being responsible for the current protests in Syria. He made these same accusations 7 times in less than an hour. His insistence on repeating the same argument in condemning Syria’s uprisings is truly baffling. Al-Assad placed the blame on foreign conspiracies, biased media and infiltrative groups.
How could any biased media explain Syria’s official state media broadcasting a so-called confession by an Egyptian youth accused of taking pictures for Israel? The man was drowned in condemnation for being a living embodiment of the foreign plots and conspiracies against Syria. However not long after this, we heard that he had been released, and this is without any clarification as to why he was initially arrested, or how he proved his innocence.
Prior to this, Syrian female blogger Tal al-Mallohi was arrested on charges of being an American spy. She was later convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.
Is it a biased media that exposes the suppression of the Syrian people and their children? Tal al- Mallohi was not the only one accused of collaborating with a foreign power. The Syrian protests have rekindled the fire that was originally started by the arrest of young children for writing critical anti-government slogans on walls in the city of Daraa. Was it also the biased media that arrested and condemned these children?
The popular uprisings that have rocked the Arab World have so far resulted in more than 300 reported cases of assault or violence against reporters and journalists. Regimes have strived to outdo one another in suppressing and banning media outlets. They even went as far as arresting, imprisoning and deliberately attacking foreign correspondents. Despite all the targeting and attacking of journalists in places like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, it is Syria which tops the list of countries that are most hostile to the media. Correspondents have managed to sneak into rebel-controlled territories in Libya, but in Syria this is almost impossible.
Hardly a day passes without hearing news of a journalist being expelled, arrested, or having their work permit confiscated, not to mention the prevention of media figures from covering the protests in Daraa and Latakia. In addition to this, Syria monitored and censored much of the satellite television coverage, placing severe restrictions on journalists.
Today, the Syrian regime is talking loudly about introducing reforms. The desire to bring about reforms, if this even occurs, should start by confronting the state-owned media and its mechanisms of censorship. Any proposed reforms should begin by addressing the media and the ideology operating it.
On previous occasions, the Syrian regime succeeded in containing a number of uprisings via a security clamp-down, whilst the media censorship policy, which has been in place for decades, also helped with this. The Syrian people have found themselves besieged and surrounded, living in a perpetual state of fear of being arrested by the security apparatus.
This reality may remain in place for a short period of time thanks to the iron-grip of the security apparatus, however ultimately the chains have been broken, and these cannot be reforged.