Syriagate: Western firm's advice for Syria proves ineffective in media war
Global communications firm Brown Lloyd James gave the Syrian government advice on exactly how to regain the trust of the US Administration, as well as its own public. This is evidenced by an e-mail from the firm to the government that was sent in May 2011, and was recently released as part of the “Syria Files.”
Noting that the US Administration had reached a pivotal point on its stance on the crisis Syria, the e-mail underscores the importance of launching a public and visible “reform” program to address the grievances and demands of ordinary Syrians.
“Reform-oriented outreach must be dramatically improved, at home and abroad, or else the credibility of these efforts—and a key part of the President’s appeal and popularity among the people—will be diminished,” the e-mail reads “Refocusing the perception of outsiders and Syrians on reform will provide political cover to the generally sympathetic US Government, and will delegitimize critics at home and abroad.”
The reform campaign should be public and visible, capable of addressing the grievances and demands of ordinary Syrians. This includes hiring street teams in communities to poll ordinary citizens, as well as setting up an “echo-chamber” outside of Syria to report on Bashar al-Assad’s plans to conduct reforms and promulgate calls for stability.
The firm also advises the Syrian government to hold soldiers caught violating the state’s order not to fire at unarmed civilians accountable for their actions. This would show the public the Syrian government justly persecutes all law breakers, be they from the opposition or the armed forces.
The regime is counseled to purvey a sense of law and order, and underscore the importance of gradual reform in a climate of peace and stability.
Syria must also “improve its ability to contain negative media stories circulated by opposition figures living outside Syria”, the e-mail says. To do this, the Syrian government is advised to set up a 24-hour media monitoring and response system with assets in the US and UK markets, to keep an eye over social media sites and to get rid of false sites.
More than a year on, the conflict in Syria is in full gear, and the government has effectively become ostracized by most Western powers. The sound advice given by the firm appears to have had no effect on improving the overall image of the government, which has continuously been portrayed in a negative light by most Western media outlets.
Even the Syrian President himself has admitted that the media war had been lost the day it began. In an interview with Russian news channel Rossiya-24, Bashar al-Assad admitted that the Western media had managed to outplay the Syrian government from the very start of the crisis by making up stories and proliferating rumors. However, Assad noted that the reality of what is happening in Syria would eventually come to light and dispel the alleged lies spread by the Western media.
Syria’s Information minister, Adnan Mahmoud, also noted that the West was waging a media against Syria, and did everything it could to prevent the global audience from seeing the Syrian side of the story via government-backed satellite channels.