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The Syrians and the media complaints - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Damascus has complained of what it has described as media incitement, namely the impact of the media coverage of the demonstrations taking place in around 7 different Syrian cities, not to mention the [coverage] of the violence and even killings of demonstrators in the city of Deraa in southern Syria.

The truth is that the international media in particular, as well as Arab media in general, have only recently begun to pay attention to what is happening in Deraa, despite the abundance of images and video clips on YouTube. However, the situation naturally changed following the rise in the death toll, as well as the violent crackdown carried out by the Syrian authorities against the people of Deraa and against protestors throughout Syria. This is only natural, and when there are people being killed, the regime – any regime – can no longer complain about the media, or consider what is happening in the country to be an internal affair; similarly the media cannot be silent or overlook what is happening.

Therefore, as I said in my article on Thursday [My advice for Friday: Do not kill], “my golden advice to Damascus is: Do no kill, and do not open fire” and this is because killing only incites the situation and intensifies the crisis. Therefore the most effective way for Syria to deal with what is happening is for it to put a stop to the injustices and respond to the demands of the people in a respectable manner, especially as what is happening in the country is not being incited by external forces, but are rather genuine demands. The latest statements from Damascus acknowledge this, with the government promising greater media freedoms, as well as the licensing of political parties, and studying the possibility of lifting the state of emergency that has prevailed in Syria for more than 4 decades without reason. Therefore how, after all of this, can Syria say that foreign hands are responsible, or that terrorists are behind what is happening in the country? What we have seen today is that all of those killed [in Deraa] are from the ranks of the protestors, not the police.

The media is not the story…and if anybody wants to see what media incitement truly looks like and confirm that the media, particularly the western media, have taken a lenient stance towards the Syrians, then you need only look at the western media’s coverage of Bahrain in order to spot the difference. The western media’s coverage of Bahrain was characterized by sectarian incitement and manipulation, and attempts to portray the Bahraini governments as being dictatorial, despite the fact that since the first day [of the crisis] it had responded with offers to discuss the protestors demands. However in response to this, the opposition transgressed the limits to the point of calling for a Republic of Bahrain!

Therefore, the best way for Damascus to deal with what is happening in Syria today is for it to put a stop to the violence and killing, rather than blame the media and accuse others of treason. The demonstrations are intensifying, and are no longer confined to Deraa, but rather demonstrations have broken out in 7 Syrian cities. This is dangerous because the demonstrations did not originate in the capital, Damascus, but rather on the edges [of the country], with these demonstrations moving towards the capital and other important Syrian cities. The implications of this are huge, and most importantly of all the fear barrier has been broken by the killings [in Deraa]. Therefore today is different from yesterday, particularly with regards to the media and technology, not to mention the prevailing situation in our region, since Ben Ali’s escape, Mubarak’s ouster, and the war in Libya. Perhaps more importantly than all of this, is the situation in Yemen where the curtain is on the verge of coming down [on the regime], although it is not clear whether this end will be a violent one, as in Libya, or calm, as in Egypt. All of this means that the situation in Yemen is far more complex and complicated.

In any case, what is most important is for there not to be any use of violence against unarmed protestors, this is my message, and this must be any regime’s primary concern and focus, rather than criticizing the media.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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