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1 Sep, 2011 06:10

Syria rues journalist ban as it loses media war

Syria is fighting a desperate media war, fruitlessly trying to prove that anti-government protesters are, in reality, armed hit men from outside the country, and that the demonstrations shown in video footage were actually all staged.

The crackdown on anti-government protesters is reportedly continuing in Syria but with most foreign media expelled from the country, and the correspondents who remain under tight control, a true picture of the situation is hard to establish.Mass murder, humanitarian catastrophe – a country on the brink of a revolution – this is what you see every time Syria pops up in the headlines.But what is really happening in this country where hardly any foreign journalists are present?“There have even been implications that some of the images shown have been digitally manipulated and there have been reports about it available online,” claims James Corbett, the editor of news website corbettreport.com“You can watch footage that was taken in Bahrain and said to be [taken] in [Syria’s] Hama. You can see the same footage on different stations with different backgrounds digitally dropped in. So there are some very strange things that are going on right now,” Corbett adds.An example of such manipulation is the case of Palestinian refugees in the coastal city of Latakia.The stadium in Latakia became the center of controversy when, according to various reports, anywhere from several hundred to several thousands people gathered there, most of them Palestinian refugees from camps in the Sunni quarter of Latakia. According to some opposition forces, including Palestinian, those people were brought to the stadium by the authorities and forced to give up their cell phones and ID's. The scene was reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's mass stadium executions, so when they were brought there, no-one knew what to expect.RT went into the part of the city which had allegedly come under fire from Syrian Air Force fighter jets and Navy ships, and spoke to the refugees to find out what had really happened.Palestinian refugee Akhed Khubun Abu Jamal recalled how “some people were walking around the neighborhood, yelling there will be shelling from the sea soon, and everyone has to get out. I didn't go anywhere, just stayed in my house. I can see the bay from my window, And there was nothing there aside from the usual patrol boats.”Still, gunfire did break out between the army and unknown gunmen.So, some 5,000 Palestinians left their homes, fearing for their lives…“We wanted to leave so that our kids wouldn't hear the gunshots. We hid in our house, and when there was a break in the fighting, we went to the stadium. We stayed there for three days and then came back,” Mohammed Fallakha, a Palestinian refugee, told RT. So did some 2,000 other refugees – only to discover that no air and navy attack had ever taken place. “We felt like we were lied to!” said another outraged Palestinian.The Syrian authorities have long insisted rogue armed groups are behind the unrest in Syria and it is they who fired the first shots when protests swept the country, prompting the cycle of bloodshed.Those statements were all but ignored by the international media. As Latakia governor Mohammad Al Sheikh acknowledged, “Syria is fighting a media war, and it's losing it”.The Syrian government might have realized its mistake in banishing foreign journalists from the country. A new media law has overturned that ban. But it could well be too late to alter the image of Syria being portrayed to a global audience on the world’s major networks.