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Syria through the media’s eyes

September 5, 2013


article-imgEvents in Syria are having an impact upon India already, with oil prices rising further to buffet an already weakened rupee and the stock market falling on fears that this will push the economy into tailspin. Therefore, what happens in Syria concerns us directly. If your only source of news was the coverage in the Indian print media, though, you might not think so. Indian news television, on this occasion, has done a better job.

None of the major broadsheet newspapers had the story on the front pages of their Mumbai editions on September 2 or September 3. It did not even make the lead on the foreign page in Hindustan Times. All the newspapers did have some coverage on the front page a day earlier, when US President Barack Obama had referred the planned military attack to his country’s parliament for a vote.

The coverage, such as it was, reflected the realities of the way our media covers world news. The stories written by Indian correspondents were all datelined Washington, because that is one of very few places in the world where Indian newspapers have correspondents. The remainder of the coverage came from Associated Press,ReutersAgence France Press or the New York Times news syndication service. These stories were filed from Washington, London, Beirut, Jerusalem or Moscow. Television also used feeds from western agencies or American affiliates such as CNN.

The Indian Express, which uses content from The Economist, carried a piece from that publication headlined “Hit him hard”, and accompanied by a photo of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. It had earlier carried a special page on the conflict in Syria using content from The New York Times, headlined with a quote from US Secretary of State John Kerry. The headline was, “Clear, compelling proof Assad used chemical weapons: Kerry”. There was nothing in the entire page to suggest that there may be another side to the story.

This has been the tenor of much of the coverage coming out of American sources, and faithfully reproduced by certain allegedly Indian news outlets; given its stance, you’d think the Indian Express was the American Express.

As it happens, the warmongering may well be propaganda rather than journalism.

Following allegations of human rights violations in the Syrian conflict, a United Nations commission of enquiry was set up in 2011. A member of that commission of enquiry, Carla Del Ponte, told Swiss TV in an interview in May this year that “there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas…I was a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got… they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition”. She was saying that it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, that had used the gas. Read more in News Lundry.


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