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Friday, June 10, 2011

Syria…Have the false witnesses returned?

By Tariq Alhomayed

The Syrian media is fighting a fierce battle against all other media, of all types and nationalities. This comes amidst the backdrop of the popular uprising in Syria. This battle becomes clear simply by monitoring some of the Syrian media outlets, or the phenomenon of "analysts" that we are witnessing today.


Yet what is most striking in this media battle, was the news aired on the French satellite station "France 24" the day before yesterday, when it broadcasted a telephone interview with a lady claiming to be the Syrian Ambassador to France, who went on to announce her resignation live on air, as a result of the repression suffered by the Syrian people. Following the news the world stood up, and has not sat down since. Indeed, I think people will not rest until the facts emerge. The Syrian Ambassador rushed to deny news of her resignation through Syrian state television, and Arab satellite channels. The Ambassador claimed that a woman had pretended to be her, and threatened to sue the French channel. This is the story, but the details are even stranger.
In a statement, The French station said it may be a victim of "manipulation". France 24 said that it had obtained the private mobile phone number of the Syrian Ambassador in Paris, via the Syrian media attaché in France. Furthermore, on Tuesday evening the news agency "Reuters" issued a news item in Arabic, and then reissued it yesterday in English, saying that "Reuters had checked with the Syrian embassy in Paris before reporting the initial resignation statement aired on France 24. An e-mail response from the embassy, sent via its website, confirmed that Ambassador Chakkour had resigned"!

Of course, as I said, the Syrian Ambassador strongly denied her resignation, and that is not the subject of the discussion here. Rather, the point is: has the Syrian battle with the media, of all types and nationalities, reached this level of ferocity, just so Syria can say it has been exposed to a foreign plot? Or are we today facing a new story of "false witnesses", like what happened with the international tribunal investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri, where false witnesses were used to undermine the credibility of the court, and show that it had become politicized?

For an unknown woman to impersonate the ambassador and announce her resignation on a well-known television channel is not easy, especially in France. Worse than all that is the fact that France 24 asserts that it obtained the phone number of the ambassador from the Syrian media attaché, whilst Reuters also claims that it had received an e-mail from the embassy confirming the resignation. So, either someone wants to implicate the Syrian Ambassador from inside her embassy, or someone wants to deal a blow to the media, along the lines of the false witnesses used in the Hariri Tribunal, yet this time only to confirm that Syria is being exposed to a foreign plot.

With the Syrian regime preventing the media from entering Syria and covering what is going on there, and with all the regime's stories which are broadcasted by its media, but do not fool anyone inside Syria itself or abroad, perhaps France 24 is the victim of new false witnesses!

(Published in the London-based Asharq Alawsat on June 9.)

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