SYRIA: Media not telling the truth about conflict, says expert
By John Newton and John Pontifex
Christians in Syria are praying for peace - but Church sources in the country say the Western media is biased
News agencies have misrepresented the conflict in Syria – according to a Aid to the Church in Need’s Middle East expert.
Father Andrew Halemba, the charity’s Middle East projects coordinator, said that media reports about the country should be treated critically and with great caution.
He said: “The situation in Syria is much more complex and difficult to assess than the media in the West make it out to be.
“Many media outlets are simply turning in sloppy reporting.
“They seem to be ignoring that there are also internal power struggles and religious tensions between the different Muslim groups, tribal feuds and acts of vengeance are a daily occurrence, and crime is rising in the country due to the unstable situation.”
Father Halemba explained that he was in constant contact with Church sources in the country.
He said: “Some Western media reports are received there with great outrage.
“People there feel exploited and deceived by international media. They complain that the West is only pursuing its own interests.”
He said a Church source in the country, which could not be named because of fears about safety, said that images were being manipulated.
Father Halemba said the Church representative had told Aid to the Church in Need: “We are witnesses to vulgar falsehoods that brazenly and shamelessly inflate a small demonstration involving around 50 people into a major demonstration with hundreds or even thousands of persons.
“The photos are patched together from different pieces using image processing software in studios created especially for this purpose.”
Al Jazeera has been accused of faking images used in their news reports to increase the size of a crowd.
Critics maintain that in one image the same people appear in the photo several times.
Father Halemba’s reference to allegations of media misuse of images come after photographer Marco di Lauro accused the BBC of using one of his pictures from Iraq in 2003 to show the situation in Syria this year.
While acknowledging that the image could not be independently verified, the BBC said the image purported to show children killed in the May 2012 massacre in Houla.
Mr di Lauro said the photograph was taken in Iraq at the time of the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein.
The BBC later apologised and removed the image upon learning of the error.
Fr Halemba stressed that Aid to the Church in Need’s task was to provide practical support to Christians in need, rather than intervene in political matters.
The charity is providing more than £103,000 in emergency aid, primarily for Christian families in need. This includes just under £40,000 for those trapped in the old city of Homs.