Aleppo: The Corporate Media Credibility Gap

Last week Peter Oborne became the first Western journalist to enter Aleppo following its relief by the Syrian Army. Since that day corporate media reports directly from Syria’s largest city have built up to become almost a trickle.

“Less than four years ago, Aleppo was a prosperous and beautiful city. Christians and Muslims lived side by side, as did Sunni and Shia. A tolerant culture was sustained by a massive industrial centre. Aleppo’s dynamic business community had developed thousands of factories in the industrial suburb of Sheikh Najjar, which employed one million Aleppans.” Peter Oborne

Gone are the times when the BBC’s John Simpson liberated Kabul single-handed. Nowadays, we are mostly fed the opinions of pre-programmed stenographers comfortably seated behind desks in London,Washington, Paris or Berlin. That might give a clue as to why the Aleppo, Oborne reports on, doesn’t seem to fit the prevailing narrative of a city recently occupied by ‘moderate’ rebels that has dominated our daily news over the last few weeks.

“In a nearby room a man from a family of olive oil merchants told me that al-Nusra has murdered three of his brothers-in-law for alleged pro-government sympathies. One was beheaded, one was ripped to pieces after being tied between an electricity poll and a moving car. A fourth brother has been kidnapped and no one knows where he is.” Peter Oborne

For Oborne’s full account, published by Middle East Eye, click on: Journey to Aleppo: How the war ripped Syria’s biggest city apart

A Syrian boy walks with his bicycle in the devastated Sukari district of Aleppo on 13 November, 2014 (AFP)
A Syrian boy walks with his bicycle in the devastated Sukari district of Aleppo on 13 November, 2014 (AFP)

To judge from the few reports coming out of Syria from journalists actually on the ground it becomes increasingly obvious the Western corporate media is stretching readers’ credibility beyond breaking. The decreasing number of comments sections on contentious issues left open, often bulge with posters expressing utter disbelief. We can only surmise our leading media outlets are facing a crisis of credibility.

For The Guardian that crisis threatens to become terminal. But rather than face the unpalatable truth, the newspaper has decided to kill the messengers. By cutting back on articles allowing comments, and banning commentators who refuse to fall into line, the paper seems to be signing its own death warrant.

“And from the smashed village of al-Rabiaa – newly taken by the Syrian army from the retreating rebels of Jabhat al-Nusra – you can watch the shells exploding across the valley, a great curtain of blue smoke that ascends into the heavens just this side of the Turkish border.” Robert Fisk

The Independent’s Robert Fisk is the about the only other British journalist writing for a major news outlet to have reported from Aleppo. To read his eyewitness account of what is happening on the Syrian border with Turkey click onto: After entering Aleppo with Russia’s help, the Syrian army may set its sights on Raqqa

These reports are not secondhand accounts garnered from a man with a telephone stuck to his ear above a shop in Coventry, or bought from a self-styled weapons expert headquartered in a house in Leicester — both of which seem to pass for serious research in most newspapers nowadays — but are sights seen, and stories heard, by seasoned journalists, who risked their lives to get them. Oborne and Fisk still believe you have to be on the spot to discover the true picture. Having said that, it is important to point out that neither man could be labelled partisan, or an Assad sympathiser. While Oborne could be accurately described as right wing; despite being a war correspondent, Fisk is virulently anti-war.

What ought be a wake-up call to all Western news outlets with serious credibility deficits, including the supposedly-neutral BBC, is that the stories filed by Oborne and Fisk appear to confirm what Russia’s media has being saying all along.

“The children are no longer startled by bursts of gunfire. For them it’s a daily adventure, but it’s scary considering that the enemy is just across the wasteland crammed with burned out cars. The black al-Nusra flag waves from the top of a building three hundred meters away. The ends of the streets facing the block of ‘musalahins’ (gunmen in Arabic) are protected from snipers by huge tents.” Alexander Kots and Dmitry Steshin

Written by Alexander Kots and Dmitry Steshin, this last quote is from a report published — along with a video — by Russia’s largest circulation daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda.

For more of that report, including a video, click here: Aleppo Residents Back Assad: ‘We Don’t Need Help From Turkey’.

What is so striking about the four quotes employed here, is not so much how little they differ from each other, but how much they differ from the myriad reports we have become so used to seeing on our TV screens and reading in our newspapers.

They show how a dangerously irresponsible corporate media seems reluctant to fulfill its role as the pillar of democracy it has so long claimed to be.

As Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan hardens his resolve to drag NATO into a war from which no winners can possibly emerge, his threats to world stability, following the latest Ankara bombing, are being virtually ignored by the corporate media. To look at headlines featured on the latest Guardian on-line front page, at the time of writing, you could be forgiven for thinking a news blackout has been imposed.

If we want to know the truth we have to look towards other sources. Russia Insider and Off-Guardian have both featured the Komsomolskaya Pravda story.

Links to alternative views on the war in Syria in both the corporate and alternative media, which I hope to add to over the following days:

Robert Fisk’s report from Damascus:

The Boston Globe reports on how the corporate media misleads the public on Syria:

Vanessa Beeley’s excellent blog: thewallwillfall

Finian Cunningham reports on the duplicity of the West:

Eric Zeusse questions “Why Do Western ‘News’ Media Ignore Many Important News-Events?” on Washington’s Blog:

Originally published: Brian Hemming (Blog)

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