This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 01/05/2011
Here I will defend the al-Jazeera news station, for how can the Syrians criticize the Qatar-based channel when they prevent it from operating on the ground, and covering what is happening there, especially in the inflamed areas, even under official supervision? Why don’t the Syrians simply complete their carbon copy of Gaddafi's tactics, which they began when they mobilized tanks against their defenseless people?
Of course the Syrians have not yet matched the horrors of Gaddafi's regime, which provided its mercenaries with Viagra pills in order to rape women and children, as the Americans claim. This accusation, especially the rape of women, has been corroborated by an Arab source, which stated that there are confirmed reports of widespread rape across Libya. The Syrian regime has not stooped to this level, but despite the hideous and heinous acts of Gaddafi's regime, it still allows a Western media presence in its capital, Tripoli, whilst the Syrian regime is preventing just that. This follows along the lines of the Iranians, who excluded international media when the Green Revolution protests began, demanding journalists leave the country. Mubarak's Egypt didn't even do this, neither did Bahrain at the time of the Shiite demonstrations, supported by Iran, and likewise Saudi Arabia did not resort to this during its Friday day of rage, which was sarcastically labeled the "Day of Compassion". On that Friday evening, a high level Saudi security source said to me: "Do you see how we have allowed the Western media full freedom?"
Why have the Syrians not allowed media coverage in Daraa, Duma, Banias, Homs, and other Syrian cities, in order to convey the facts as they are? For example, why not leave al-Jazeera to film the alleged Salafis in those areas with its cameras, or even the intervention of the Syrian forces, in order to film them discovering the Salafis weapons, or lack of, thus confirming the official Syrian version? The media today, with all its means, and respectable outlets in particular, cannot be expected to believe the Syrian "analysts", or the official Syrian account. How can such sources be believed when here we see an individual, who circulated a story about Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz, as well as the future movement MP Jamal Jarrah, writing cheques [to fund unrest in Syria], apologizing in Lebanon saying there was no basis for his story, and his false accusations. The same individual had apologized a few weeks earlier for calling Saudi women "waste bags", and now he admits the cheques he revealed and accused Prince Turki of were forged, and has apologized. How can any media believe the accounts defending Syria after that?
How can any respected media outlet, if it is indeed respected, especially in Lebanon which contains the largest amount of false information in our region, a phenomenon I have repeatedly described as "news laundering", how can it trust accounts that are known for their lies? Unfortunately, some media outlets do not care about credibility, it is the least of their concerns, and there are there are many like this amongst our Arab media. We have seen this since the time of Jamal Abdul Nasser, when the enemy aircraft were said to be dropping like flies, and then with Saddam's coupons, followed by Iranian spies in Iraq, up to this day.
Therefore, our media, especially satellite television, specifically al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera, must declare a clear stance towards official Syrian accounts, as long as their cameras are not allowed to be present in all isolated Syrian areas, such as Daraa, Duma and so on. Otherwise, they are merely false witnesses.