Background: Our co-ed Alison Banville wrote a piece recently on the corporate media disappearing the children murdered in Syria last week by NATO backed Jihadists. Included was an admonition of Media Lens for consistently refusing to acknowledge Vanessa Beeley’s outstanding investigative work on the ground in Syria. In response, the Davids Edwards and Cromwell posted a reply to Alison on their Facebook page which cited, as support for their position, an article by ex-Guardian journalist, Nafeez Ahmed. In the Twitter tsunami that followed Ahmed’s pronouncements on the legitimacy of Vanessa and Eva Bartlett’s work and his view of what constitutes valid independent journalism were highlighted. Here, Eva, that other outstanding journalist who has risked her life to bring us on the ground reports from Syria, sets the record straight:
With thanks to Patrick Henningsen for his eloquent articulation of the many things Nafeez Ahmed got wrong about Vanessa Beeley and myself and how we report from Syria.
“‘Nafeez Ahmed about Vanessa Beeley & Eva Karene Bartlett…compelling evidence shows that when they report from Syria they do so in a context that is entirely embedded in Syrian government and military forces.; – Let’s break this down….
1) Firstly, what is Nafeez’s credibility on what makes for legitimate journalism or reporting in Syria? Has Nafeez ever been to Syria, if so was it during the war? If the answer is no, then he is not a credible judge of what does, or does not constitute ‘real journalism’ on the ground during this 8 year war.
2) He’s insinuating that Vanessa, Eva are “entirely embedded in Syrian government and military forces”…. as opposed to what? Entirely embedded with Al Qaeda, or ISIS? Which one is preferable, because it’s not both. Which one is legal – because providing PR support, generating sympathy for, or aiding in recruitment in the West (yes, AQ, ISIS greatest recruitment tool in West was/is our own MSM marketing ‘the good fight’ against ‘the evil Assad regime’) listed international terrorists groups is shaky ground, no? Fair question, yes? Those who insist these should be called “Rebels” cannot be taken seriously in this debate…
3) So Nafeez is assuming there is something SINISTER about being on Syrian govt side of the fence during a major war. When a country is embroiled in a real civil war where people a getting killed every single day, many civilians by suicide bomb, mortar shelling, snipers – so you can’t just go running around where you want, filming and interviewing who you want – for obvious reasons. Anyone who doesn’t get this, is detached from reality and cannot be taken seriously in this debate. By making this his bone of his contention, Nafeez (and Media Lens) is revealing his own bias – against the nation of Syria which includes its overwhelming majority of its population, its military, its police, all of whom support their flag & govt who is a UN member state….
4) …V & E are not perfect and are working on little or no money – relying on their own street smarts – a lot like old school journalists, but if you look at their reporting closely they are close to perfect. Contrast that with the Corp Media Complex who, with all their millions in resources, routinely run roughshod over facts, and yet these same outlets undermine, smear V & E at every opportunity.
Notice how the likes of Nafeez will dismiss V & E out of hand by leveling the casual, “They are with the Regime” smear – as if that constitutes some sort of valid criticism of the content of their (vast) reporting from Syria.
Note that V & E have spent more time on the ground inside Syria during this war than any other Western journalist. Find me one who has done more. That means one thing: THEY KNOW MORE, a lot more about the war, about Syria; about the people, the public mood, and many other intangibles which are not available in the reams of western MSM coverage, or the frauds at Al Jazeera (yes, fraudulent reporting in/on Syria by AJ is bountiful).
Therefore, they know more than any other Western journalist on this subject. It means they are an bonafide authority on the subject. That’s a fact, unless someone can show me it’s not true. Look at the volume and breadth of V & E’s work. It’s stunning. So MSM cannot hold a candle to it – not one.
5) Lastly, the idea that V & E are somehow bias or “supporting the regime” is a ridiculous smear by the fact it is so myopic.
When we have 90% + of the Western Media Complex who are completely biased and reporting (and often lying) on behalf of their beloved “Rebels” and continuously jeering for regime change since 2011 – to insinuate that a few lone, self-funded, independent voices offering a factual reporting from the other side of that curtain – are somehow bias or ‘disqualified’ as legitimate journalists or authorities on the war in Syria – is a completely stupid but common charge leveled by people who more than likely have got their own issues to overcome in terms of skewed bias or worldview narratives. If anything, V & E and others like them are redressing an obvious SYSTEMIC over-arching media bias which clearly exists and has distorted this conflict from day one – and led to one failed western policy after another, even until today….”
*Please see here for full remarks & context
I’ve added below my thoughts, with links, on how I’ve reported from Syria. This doesn’t even scratch the surface, but I’m not going to waste more precious time on this than I already have, and otherwise am not giving more energy to the war propagandist and his poor attempts to smear. ✌️?
“Hi Pat, thanks. I’m not getting into this as I don’t have time, nor do I actually care what Nafeez Ahmed thinks, but I do very much appreciate all the points you made. Because you have taken time to make those points, I will just add somethings, to complement what you’ve written.
I do appreciate your noting how journalists like Vanessa, myself, (yourself, too, I would add) are working bare-bones and without any support of any media organization. We do every last detail ourselves, from arranging the visa, choosing cheapest travel options, arranging internal travel, doing the research, having accurate translations done, subtitling the video testimonies we take.
When I spoke to a former corporate media producer, Patrick Corbett, he highlighted how corporate journalists have teams of people doing this stuff for them and also far more technology options at hand for transmitting reports quickly…. WATCH HERE
Also, I’ve never worn a flak jacket or helmet, in spite of being numerous occasions 100-400 metres from terrorist snipers, and have on two occasions been sniped at: June 2014, outside the walls of Old Damascus, sniper fire from Jobar, and then in summer 2016, traversing Berzeh in a taxi at night with a driver and translator…
As for my “regime travels” in Syria, first, when in Damascus I’m almost always alone interacting with Syrians in my colloquial Arabic. And for anyone who would dismiss that as being irrelevant, Damascus until last year was subject to brutal daily mortars and missiles from terrorists in eastern Ghouta, which I was writing about since 2014 when I was at the time staying in a super modest hotel right next to Bab Sharqi, and in an area being pounded with mortars: READ: US-Backed Terrorism in Syria: A First-Hand Account of the Use of Mortars Against Civilians
It’s also worth noting that the millions on millions of Syrians–including some at least 6 million internal refugees–living in government areas are people who corporate media exclude completely, although their narratives and experiences have been horrific, under terrorist attacks on government areas, or fleeing terrorists from their own areas all over Syria.
In June 2014, I went to old Homs, which had only a month prior been liberated of terrorists through a busing out deal. I was there *only* with a friend who acted as my translator. We took a minivan to get there, and stayed at relatives at night. We walked around interviewing people from Old Homs without any minder or security. READ: Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution”
We also went to Maaloula, which had been liberated 2 months prior. There we did have military escort for the last leg of the road because terrorists were still kms away in nearby hills. READ: Devastation…and Inspiration: Recalling Liberated Ma’loula
And by the way, having military escort in these situations is not about dictating what realities we can/can’t see, its about protecting us (and corporate journalists, too, as I saw in November 2016 on one of 2 trips to Aleppo) from sniping or landmines or other. Soldiers are literally putting their bodies on the line to protect journalists. When I went back to Maaloula two years later, it was only with a translator friend, to interview locals who were subject to terrorism and also to interview the heroic local defenders from Maaloula. READ: Overcoming Savagery and Treachery, Maaloula’s Heroic Defenders Fight for the Future
In summer 2016, I travelled a lot around western Syria and also to Aleppo, only with a different friend who acted as translator, and later with Vanessa and that same friend, no military escort–although the Khanasser road was fairly dangerous as terrorists just kms away frequently attacked it, laid mines on it.
Getting into Aleppo meant going along the Ramouseh road which was prone to being shelled and sniped by terrorists in Sheikh Saaed.
I jotted down in a notebook at the time:
“Entering the outskirts of the city, driver points to a cement factory roughly 400 m away. Beyond that factory, in Sheikh Saeed, terrorists, he says. We pass barrels stacked to screen cars from terrorist snipers’ bullets, then embankments of sand and earth, for the same purpose. Dipping into a small valley, a block of apartments in al-Ramouseh is in view.
The driver opens the car windows, explaining that, “here many mortars fall” (in which case, better to have window open, in case a mortar landed, so windows won’t shatter from the pressure). He says for the next 500 metres the risk of snipers’ bullets is high, that five of his friends were killed along this stretch. The car speeds along the road until a safe point is reached.” WATCH: SHORT CLIP ON RAMOUSEH
A couple of weeks after that July 2016 visit to Aleppo, I read on Syrian media that a woman had been killed by terrorist sniping on her home in the Ramouseh neighbourhood.
When Vanessa and I went in August 2016, the only means in was via the recently opened northern Castello road—which was being shelled the day we left along it—again only in a civilian taxi with our translator friend, no escort. WATCH: LEAVING ALONG CASTELLO ROAD
With that translator friend, I also went to Ta’aouna, and went to a front line where locals from the village had taken up arms to defend against FSA and al-Qaeda terrorists 300 metre away, occupying Aqrab, which was the site of a brutal massacre of civilians in December 2012. One woman I interviewed was afraid to use her real name as some of her loved ones had been kidnapped and she was holding out hope for their return…
SCROLL DOWN TO August 6 entry: Updates From on the Ground in Syria: June to August 11 or read on Facebook.
We also went to Palmyra, in July 2016. Excerpt from a post on that:
‘A Colonel accompanied me in the car along for the last length of about 140 km on the road to Palmyra. One length of around 100 km stretch of road is even now quite risky. At an SAA checkpoint near the start of this stretch of road, a car which had been the evening prior attacked by Da’esh (in an ambush possibly to abduct the passengers within) sat riddled with machine-gun fire.
As we drove, the Colonel narrated the proximity of Da’esh in the hills beyond, at times less than 10 kilometers. I was reminded of the drive to Aleppo, where at times Da’esh was just two kilometers to one side of the road, and al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists the same to the other side of the road, particularly when approaching the start of the Khanaser road to Aleppo.’
In November 2016, I travelled completely solo to & from Aleppo, just with a driver I hired rather randomly, not even with a translator. In Aleppo for a week, I didn’t have anyone from the ministry of info with me much of the time, and the times I did he was only helping with interviews.
Earlier in November 2016, I also went to Aleppo but this time with a small delegation of corporate journalists. I will note that again while many of them wore flak jackets and helmets, I didn’t have that luxury. And as it happened, most of them were sitting in the bus while I was on Castello Road when it was twice shelled at close proximity…
When in June 2017 I went to Madaya, it was with a different friend acting as translator, in his car, no military or other escort even though areas of Madaya had not yet been cleared of potential mines.
WATCH: Madaya: terrorist bomb factory. Interacting with people, the only sort of ‘escort’ was the town mayor, which is appropriate since he knew how things played out in Madaya.
When I went to Daraa in May 2018, it was with one translator from the ministry of information, and yes military escort (one unarmored vehicle in front of my rented taxi) going to the national hospital—because al-Qaeda snipers lay 100 metres away
Dara’a was being shelled by terrorists when I was there…
When also in May 2018 I went to Hadar, southern Syria, my rented taxi was met by military escort (soldiers in a car…) the last leg because al-Qaeda were still occupying Jubatta al-Khashab 6 km away…and routinely firing on the road to Hadar.
When in April 2018 I went multiple times to eastern Ghouta areas, it was solely with a translator from the ministry in a taxi I hired. No military escort.
When in September 2018 I went to Mhardeh, days after a massive terrorist attack which killed 13 civilians, it was again in a rented taxi with a translator.
And when in Aleppo last January, I went to a textile factory 400 metres away from al-Qaeda snipers, again not wearing any protective equipment and without any military escort.
So, while there have been instances in which the Syrian army has provided a one-car escort, many times I’ve been on my own with just a translator, or on my own period.
I know Vanessa has had the same sort of experiences, repeatedly exposing herself to danger with no protection, in order to share the voices corporate media deliberately excludes because they are in “regime” areas… Its revolting, actually, how people like Ahmed can dismiss the testimonies of millions of Syrians whose stories should be heard simply because they live in areas secured by the Syrian government.
Further, if one scrolls through my uploads, you’ll find many videos where I’m interacting one on one with the Syrians I’m filming/interviewing…
I’ll close, with thanks, with more from Patrick:
“The truth is that the most effective counter to western war machine includes both mainstream dissenters AND Vanessa Beeley & Eva Karene Bartlett too. Combined, they have more experience on the ground during, more insight of Syria War than all the ‘big names’, who are all great people and journalists, which Media Lens listed. But Vanessa & Eva’s reporting is 10 times more valuable as part of historic record than analysis or opinion of all the others combined – and more effective – which is why the BBC, Times, Huff Post, CNN, C4, The Guardian, VOA, Snopes et al allocate so much times and resources to smear them, myself and others who are not Mainstream or high profile. You can tell who Establishment fear most by who they attack most. That should be a no-brainer.