Is Corporate Media Getting Syria’s Eastern Ghouta Crisis Right? Maybe.
Syria is back in the headlines and civilians are trapped in the war-torn Ghouta district, but how accurately is corporate media covering the crisis?
Trending in the news is the tragedy of Syria’s Eastern Ghouta district. There are reports of an estimated 500 innocent civilians being killed in a strike launched by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia since Feb. 18.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the situation there as “living in hell on Earth.” The five-hour pause set up by Russia did not stop the bloodshed. U.N. agencies found it difficult to channel humanitarian aid under such a circumstance.
Rebel groups and militants have been controlling Eastern Ghouta since 2013, and with the Syrian government trying to seize the region, hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in the war.
Mainstream media organizations wrote several interesting pieces about the situation in Eastern Ghouta and Syria in general, but did they get it right?
- Questionable Sources: Al Jazeera used the White Helmets as their source in an article about the death total in Eastern Ghouta. The subheading of the Al Jazeera article read: “The White Helmets group says 674 civilians killed in past 13 days as Syrian regime continues to pound rebel-held area.” The White Helmets are a highly controversial organization that many suspect have ties to ISIS. Critics claim the White Helmets are a pro-U.S., war propaganda organization. While Western media hails the White Helmets as heroes who save civilians from the cruel Assad regime. The White Helmets earned an Oscar for Best Short Documentary in 2017. The group has repeatedly been accused of “staging” humanitarian operations and faking videos. Despite the controversy around the White Helmets, mainstream media still insists on using them as reliable sources for on the ground information in Syria.
- Accuracy In Reporting Chemical attacks: In late February, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated that the use of sarin gas by the Assad administration would not go “unpunished” as BBC reported. The U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, spoke in early February to reporters and gave a different view. Mattis, in a somewhat shocking confession, stated that there was no evidence that Syria used poisonous sarin gas on its people. Mainstream media barely reported on the admission from Mattis. The statement from Mattis also didn’t qualify if he was only referring to recent years or in the entirety of the history of the Syrian conflict. His statement left open the possibility that Mattis was saying there was no evidence Assad had ever used chemical weapons on his people, including in the infamous gas attacks of 2013.
- Misleading Photos Circulate The Internet: What’s happening in Ghouta is bad for sure. But many activists calling for action in Ghouta are using photos from Mosul, Gaza or other similar war torn places.
However bad the situation is in Ghouta, none of the four pics you posted are from Ghouta, let alone from recent days. 1st is from a video from Gaza 2014. 2nd is from Aleppo, dec 2016, 3rd is Mosul march 2017 and 4th unknown place in syria, november 2017.
— Harald Doornbos (@HaraldDoornbos) February 25, 2018
One Twitter user, a Syrian American with the Twitter handle @SamiSharbek, shared a photo claiming to be of Ghouta that was retweeted 128,000 times. The photos he used were of Gaza and Mosul. Unlike when corporate media covered the Iran protests by circulating photos of protests not actually in Iran, mainstream media doesn’t seem to have fallen for the same trick.
Who do you think is doing a good job covering Syria and the Eastern Ghouta crisis?