The photograph above shows independent journalist, Vanessa Beeley and Shade Shhde whose three children, wife and mother were all killed in the massacre at Mhardeh, Syria – an outrage ignored by the West’s corporate media. Shade is giving Vanessa the bracelet his eldest daughter used to wear. This almost unbearably moving gesture is a grieving man’s way of demonstrating how much he values the work of this outstanding journalist who has brought his testimony to the outside world so we might know that his precious daughter, and his other cherished family members, lived and were loved.
Vanessa Beeley has been consistently on the ground in Syria interviewing its citizens about their appalling experiences at the hands of the Jihadists supported and funded by our own government and its NATO/Israeli/Gulf State partners in crime in the alliance of terror. From Aleppo to Damascus, and the many Syrian towns and villages in between and surrounding which no corporate journalist has ever set foot in (most have never even set foot in Syria) Vanessa has sought out the voices begging (literally) to be heard – and therein lies the reason you have not seen these people’s desperate pleas on News At Ten, the two flagship corporate news programmes on the BBC and ITV.
These are the wrong sort of victim. Their suffering does not fit the approved narrative echoed by corporate journalists obediently complying with the directions given them by their official government sources. This we know from the horse’s mouth of British government official Carne Ross who, when interviewed by John Pilger in his brilliant documentary, The War You Don’t See admitted “We would control access to the foreign secretary as a form of reward to journalists. If they were critical, we would not give them the goodies of trips around the world. We would feed them factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we’d freeze them out”
Wonder not, then, how the slaughter of children can be suppressed by ‘respected’ journalists like Jon Snow, Krishnan Guru-Murthy and the rest of the servile corporate media crowd posing as legitimate reporters. Respected by whom exactly? Only those unaware of the willful crimes of omission committed daily by this shameful cohort. The title ‘journalist’ should not be awarded to people such as this, but only to those individuals unwilling to amplify government propaganda in exchange for a fat salary and a seat at a corporate media table spilling over with the blood of innocents and piled high with the spoils of illegal and immoral war upon which they gorge. Pilger’s accusation that these people have blood on their hands is no baseless insult.
Henry Thoreau asked way back in 1849 why every person has a conscience as he observed that those who are generally ‘esteemed good citizens’ are ‘apt to serve the devil’ when they refuse to ‘make moral distinctions’ and eagerly do the bidding of a corrupt government. Well, what a perfect summing up of the career of a corporate ‘journalist’, because if they are not serving the devil then I’d like to know who is?
‘There is no exercise whatever of the conscience or of the moral sense’. Why, Mr. Thoreau, your words ring just as true today because in the corporate journalistic sphere refusing to engage one’s conscience is an imperative justified with a twisted definition of ‘objectivity’.
Chris Hedges, ex-New York Times Middle East bureau chief turned independent, wrote: ‘the creed of objectivity becomes a convenient and profitable vehicle to avoid confronting unpleasant truths or angering a power structure on which news organizations depend for access and profits. This creed transforms reporters into neutral observers or voyeurs. It banishes empathy, passion and a quest for justice’, the very qualities, in fact, which we find at the core of Vanessa Beeley’s journalism, a woman who has steadfastly refused to lay her conscience aside and who, like John Pilger, one of Vanessa’s staunchest supporters, has made ’empathy, passion and a quest for justice’ the ethic which drives all her work.
Of course, having integrity as a journalist is a dangerous game and has brought Vanessa into the firing line to be targeted by those very corporate ‘journalists’ for whom these values mean nothing. Hit pieces high on smears and devoid of facts have been rolled out prominently in The Guardian, The Times, The Huffington Post and The New Statesman, the venom of the personal attacks increasing in correspondence with Vanessa’s accumulation of evidence for the very crimes these same writers have ignored and are therefore complicit in. For it is not enough that they obscure the truth, they must annihilate the person exposing their own venality. Meanwhile, Vanessa is a finalist for the prestigious Martha Gelhorne Prize for Journalism and is voted by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) as one of the Top 238 Most Respected Journalists in the UK.
In the end we must all make a choice, whether as journalists, as news media analysts or as news consumers, about which sources we choose to promote with our support and those which we choose to silence with our indifference. Vanessa Beeley and that other great independent journalist, Eva Bartlett, are two figures upholding the very best values of journalism in their reporting on Syria all while being attacked continuously by those not fit to lick their shoes. It is our duty, therefore, to amplify these brave women’s work which the peddlers of fake corporate news are trying so relentlessly to discredit and suppress. When we ignore the testimonies Vanessa and Eva bring out of Syria, often at great personal risk, we silence the voices of the Syrian men, women and children who have suffered so much and who desperately want the world to hear their stories.
Days before Christmas I met up with friends for some last minute shopping and I showed them Vanessa’s video testimonies from Sweida, which deeply affected them. We then went into a branch of Waterstones and were confronted by a book prominently displayed: ‘Becoming Michelle Obama’. I felt quite sick. This is the person young women and girls are supposed to look up to as a role model? The wife of a war criminal serving the global elites? I know which woman I would encourage a daughter of mine to emulate and aspire to be. The so-called feminists drooling over Michelle O and Hillary Clinton need to take a good hard look at what an inspiring woman actually is – Vanessa Beeley in two words.
She is the woman I take my example from: brave, kind, strong, funny, rooted in integrity, encouraging of other women and a prize of a friend. If I didn’t know she actually exists I’d have to invent her! And I couldn’t give a fuck how sycophantic this sounds because anyone whose opinion matters to me in the slightest knows every word is true. I feel stronger just knowing Vanessa is on this planet and the privilege of being around her magnificent energy at close quarters has been the thrill of my life and has lifted me to a better place.
I am a better activist, a better advocate of the Syrian people, a better journalist, a better woman, and a better human being because of Vanessa Beeley. She has taken all the flak the corrupt state and their corporate media flunkeys could throw at her and she’s still holding that torch of truth aloft. Fuck them. They don’t know what they’re dealing with. But we do Vanessa. Thank you.
Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. Please support her work at her Patreon account.