In his analysis of the western coverage of the ongoing Syrian conflict, Matthias von Hein, a reporter with Germany's public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle has acknowledged that it was selective and one-sided, clearly aimed at painting Moscow, Tehran and Damascus in a bad light.
He cited as an example western reporting on the recent liberation of Syria's second-largest city of Aleppo, recalling that "the first casualty of war is always truth."
"Although the clever twisting of the truth is more successful than a barefaced lie; and selective presentation is the most effective way of massaging opinion in a particular direction," he acknowledged.
While describing the western emphasis in reports on the offensive, the author noted that "our screens showed us, almost exclusively, air attacks by the Syrian and Russian air forces on residential areas of Aleppo."
"There was extensive illustration of the barbarism that did indeed lie behind this, the cynicism of Assad and his supporters, their willingness literally to walk over corpses. The alarming humanitarian situation in the besieged city was constantly emphasized," he said.
However he wondered where was the information that the rebels were acting just as cynically? And further revealed that "they abused people by using them as human shields; they repeatedly prevented the inhabitants of East Aleppo from fleeing to the western part of the city; and they too fired rockets and mortars into areas in the western part with no consideration whatsoever for the civilian population."
"The main difference between this and so-called "Islamic State" is that IS wants a worldwide caliphate. The Syrian jihadists are, for the time being, content with a Syrian one," he stated.
His view echoes that of Professor Tim Anderson, a distinguished author and Senior Lecturer of Political Economy at the University of Sydney, Australia, who also noted that there was a "storm of western government and media misinformation (claims of massacres, mass executions and ‘civilians targeted’) over the evacuation of around 100,000 civilians and many thousands of terrorists."
"Reporters on the ground told a different story," he writes in his article for the OffGuardian independent news platform.
"As Syrian forces smashed the al-Qaeda lines, the trapped civilians streamed out. They published video of long lines of people leaving east Aleppo and finding relief, food and shelter with the Syrian Arab Army. Tired and relieved, they told their stories to anyone who cared to listen. Russia and Iran gave many tons of food, clothing, blanket and shelter aid. By contrast, western countries generally gave nothing and the terror groups rejected all aid from the Syrian alliance."
"Civilians were prohibited from leaving the al-Qaeda enclave, many were shot dead when they tried to do so. The armed gangs had food reserves but kept it for their fighters. Arms factories including toxic chemicals were found and were being made safe. Some of the armed men were taken into custody, but most were shipped out to Idlib, where Damascus has been concentrating the foreign-backed fighters," Professor Anderson writes.
"When the hell canons fell silent, and no more home-made gas cylinder mortars landed in the heart of the city, there was elation and dancing in the streets, shown widely on social media. The US State Department spokesman claimed he had not seen this," he acknowledges.
Matthias von Hein meanwhile recalls what the US high-ranking officials have said about the so-called Syrian "moderate" rebels.
Back on 16 April 2016 Colonel Steve Warren, the spokesman for the US military intervention against IS, Operation Inherent Resolve told a press conference that East Aleppo was held primarily by the al-Nusra Front.
He also recalled the speech given by US Vice-President Joe Biden at Harvard in October 2014.
"Not only did a frustrated Biden explain that there was no moderate center in Syria, the vice-president also publicly complained that America's allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia were also its biggest problem in Syria," he said.
"Biden went on to explain that both countries were obsessed with toppling Assad. They had, he said, distributed hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons to anyone wanting to fight against Assad. The problem was that these opponents were al-Nusra, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, and jihadist extremists from other parts of the world."
As early as 2012, the author says, the US military's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) warned in an analysis that the originally peaceful and democratic protest in Syria was now dominated by Islamists.
"The paper was already warning then of the possible emergence of a Salafist state. Two years later, in 2014, IS declared precisely that," he states.
Summing up all the above, Matthias von Hein urges for "skepticism, above all, and an honest effort to provide a comprehensive picture."
Of course, he says, the media must present the cruelty of war, including the fighting, suffering and death in East Aleppo.
"But if they're serious about providing information, that information should not be one-sided," the author says.
Otherwise, he states, "selective presentation is propaganda."
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