The British journalist Lizzie Phelan gave another interview about several interesting topics some days ago. The interview with the statements of Lizzie Phelan about the situation in Syria, her experiences in Libya and her general opinions and explanations was so interesting and good that you really should watch it.
Because of the audio problems and the very current importance of the real situation in Syria, which is wonderfully and exactly explained by the independent British journalist Lizzie Phelan, we are really happy to be able to publish the full transcription of this interview.
The video of the interview with Lizzie Phelan about the current events in Syria and also important background information about the real situation in this country of the Middle East is included in this transcription of the interview. We are honored to say thank you to Lizzie Phelan for the important explanations, her knowledge of the situation and all her incredible dedication to the truth about these events.
We always wrote that investigative journalism is a fairy tale but when there is really an investigative journalism on this beautiful planet, Lizzie Phelan is a synonym for it. We also honored to say lovely greetings and a big thank you to Shoruk for the transcription of this interview with Lizzie Phelan about Syria, Western media / mass media, a bit Libya and some other important information and events in recent months, years.
لقاء مع الصحفية البريطانية ليزي فيلان 7 2 2012 / Interview with British journalist Lizzie Phelan (07/02/2012)
Transcription of the interview with Lizzie Phelan about Syria, mass media..:
(Syrian Presenter) – What are the main points of view that you will be raising in this documentary?
(Lizzie Phelan) – The main point is to basically deconstruct the main fabrications that have been put forward by the global media, mainly the western media and channels, particularly Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. And these fabrications are that the army is on a mass systematic scale killing peaceful protesters, that there is no democracy in Syria, that there is no respect for human rights and that there is no support for President Bashar Al-Assad. So the documentary deals with all of these fabrications and in effect shows that in many of the cases they are complete and outright lies.
(S.P) – You said that these are fabrications, for many of our viewers and people who are watching us, when they hear the word fabrication they would say “why would a TV channel, a leading TV channel and mainstream media, fabricate news about Syria?” When you see five or six or seven news outlets doing the same coverage, how would you explain that there are fabrications, as you would call them?
(L.P) – It is quite clear that in the West and in certain Arab countries that the media is inseparable from the state and the governments. So for example the BBC is funded by the British state, Al Jazeera is funded by the Qatari state, so in effect it is very naïve to think that these news organisations will report in a way that contradicts the foreign policy of their countries. We know very well that Qatar has been calling for foreign intervention in Syria very openly and actively. Just as they did in Libya. What I am talking about now applies to Libya. Britain and the NATO countries have been pushing for intervention in Syria so it is the role of the media of these countries to provide a narrative that supports intervention in Syria. So really it is naïve to think that these organisations are independent and have the ability to be objective. They are not independent. They have to serve the foreign policy interest.
(S.P) – So what you are saying is that if the BBC is funded by the United Kingdom and Al Jazeera is funded by the Qatari government and if Al Arabiya is funded by the Saudi government, France 24 by the French government and so on, these are a translation of the foreign policy of the governments and not free journalism?
(L.P) – Absolutely.
(S.P) – Recently we have seen a shift in the coverage regarding the events in Syria. Up to a certain point, no media outlets would acknowledge the presence of gunmen in protests in Syria. Everyone was saying this was a peaceful protest and according to them the security and army were systematically killing peaceful protesters. But when the Arab League (AL) observers entered Syria and for some reason the insurgents and the presence of the insurgents became undeniable, we saw a shift in the coverage. They started justifying the presence of the insurgents and justifying the militants. Why do you think this is?
(L.P) – I think there are two things. First of all as you said at the beginning, there was completely no acknowledgement that the government was fighting against armed insurgents. It was all about the government attacking “peaceful protesters.” But as you say because the A.L have begun to acknowledge the presence it has become impossible for this to be denied. But, and as you rightly say, there is the danger now that these armed groups are being legitimised. And I think this is because NATO countries and other countries like Qatar have been unsuccessful in pushing for intervention in the way they wanted to do it, like how they did in Libya via the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). I think now in creating this organisation they call the Free Syrian Army (FSA) they are effectively trying to say that the FSA or the armed insurgents are legitimate and therefore it is legitimate for us to support them and this is a very dangerous road for us to go down. It is a blatant violation of the sovereignty of an independent nation.
(S.P) – But even media outlets, take Reuters for example, issued a report recently saying that only 3% of the FSA is made up of army deserters and the rest are people who are wanted for prior crimes or people who are simply thugs and bearing arms against the government. How do we judge these media outlets? We say they are not objective though they are saying something’s which agree with what is happening on the ground.
(L.P) – Yes. So on the one hand this is what they are doing and on the other hand they are still providing manipulative coverage on the events in Syria. It is quite arrogant actually that they can come out and provide these reports and being honest about what is happening. But at the same time they are not being critical about this. They are still facilitating hostility against the Syrian government. Really I just think it is quite an arrogant approach towards covering the events in Syria.
(S.P) – What percent did media contribute to the Syrian crisis do you think?
(L.P) – At least above 90%. It is clear that without the media and the medias involvement in this conflict, the events would have been over perhaps before they started. The reports at the beginning at the government was attacking peaceful protesters were crucial, I think in mobilising and inflaming the situation inside Syria.
(S.P) – Many people say why doesn’t the Syrian government allow more journalists when more than 160 news crews have entered Syria and many before in this crisis. What do you think about the calls to allow journalist to enter Syria?
(L.P) – Well as I said before that the global media organisations are not separate from their governments so first of all I would like to say that in Britain if there was a similar crisis happening in Britain it would be impossible, unheard of, for example if Britain was facing an aggression by Iran for example, it would be unheard of that Britain would be allowing Iranian media in the country which is going to be critical of the British government and indeed even at a time of peace when Britain isn’t under threat from Iran just a few days ago, Britain closed down the Iranian channel in English (Press TV) which is an unprecedented move and the first time they have closed down an international channel. It is evident that the reason they are doing this is because they cant stand to have an Iranian voice in the English language. Really I think that it is very generous of the Syrian government to be letting any journalists into the country at all. Not only do they support the narrative of military intervention but also it has been well documented, and I am NOT a conspiracy theorist, it is well known and anybody can look into it, that media organisations, journalistic teams that come into countries like Syria and other countries that are facing war, are embedded with intelligence. It’s a very cheap way for imperialist countries to have eyes and ears on the ground when they cant send in Special Forces which of course they do anyway. It happened in Libya and it is happening now in Syria. If I can talk quickly about the case of Gilles Jacquier in Homs…
(S.P) – The France 2 reporter who was killed in Homs by insurgents…
(L.P) Exactly. Shortly after he was killed, French media organisations were accusing the government of killing Gilles Jacuqier. Actually it is very complicated and I cant go into a lot of the details as we don’t have time, but before Gilles Jacquier came on the first delegations, France 2 sent a letter to the Syrian Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Information, requesting that Gilles Jacquier be embedded with the Syrian military and of course the Syrian government rejected this because it is a very sensitive area for a French person…
(S.P) – For anybody. Even for a civilian.
(L.P) – Yes. There are also the Iranian engineers who were captured in Homs on December 20th 2011, nobody knows what happened to them. It is very strange that a French magazine on January 5th 2012 published pictures of these Iranian engineers. The French magazine was Paris Match. Which shows that they have contacts, at least with the people who have captured the engineers. When Gilles Jacquier was supposed to come, he came with his supposed girlfriend who was a woman called Caroline Poiron, who is a photographer for Paris Match, when they went to Homs, it is well known that they were meant to meet with Opposition figures and actually they requested that their Lebanese translator didn’t accompany them later on when they were supposed to be going to Bab Aamr or Bab Sba’a. Why didn’t they want her to accompany them? Obviously there was something that they didn’t want her to see. But then of course he was killed in an attack. George Malbrunot from Le Figaro immediately accused the government but then when evidence started to come out that Gilles Jacquier was part of the military intelligence for the French and of course this cant be proven conclusively but there is evidence to suggest that.
(S.P) – Le Figaro themselves said that Gilles Jacquier was killed by an insurgency attack.
(L.P) – Exactly. So when the evidence started to come out to say that he wasn’t who he said he was, then Le Figaro said that he was killed by insurgents. This is an extraordinary admission by the French and they quoted some FSA officials as saying this. So not only are the FSA admitting to killing Gilles Jacquier but they are also admitting to killing eight Syrian civilians.
(S.P) – Exactly. Which no one wants to speak about. They only want to speak about the French journalist.
(L.P) – Absolutely.
(S.P) – However moving onto Libya. You were in Libya covering the events in Libya. What similarities do you find between the insurgency in Libya and the insurgency in Syria?
(L.P) – There are many similarities. There are of course many difference between the situation here and in Libya but…
(S.P) – I am just speaking about the aspects of the insurgents. How they are managed. How the media cover their news and activities. Because in Libya there has been something very interesting. They always told us that the so-called “rebels” are strong and determined but everyday we hear about them losing more ground to government forces and it wasn’t until NATO intervened very strongly, bombing cities and everything that stood in the way. They weren’t able to gain any ground from the government.
(L.P) – Of course the media completely labelled these people “revolutionaries” “freedom fighters” but as we know, as the similar situation in Libya, it is clear they have strong links to Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups. You are absolutely right in saying that they were in complete disarray, the rebels, and we can see that now in the way that there are many hundreds of militias. There is no unity between these people. They were completely incapable of doing anything without NATO. This is a fact. In terms of the other similarities in the media coverage, the media very much portrayed as if they had popular support, but actually I was there and I met a lot of refugees from places were they were heavily embedded like Ben Ghazi and Misrata, thousands of people who had fled these areas because they were committing atrocities against the civilian population. Of course we saw footage of protests with these rebels, similar to how we are seeing now in Syria, but to look at those images and say that is popular support, when we can also see the atrocities these people are committing, is it support or is it fear? That is a judgement to be made. But the media was completely unquestioning about this. They completely ignored the refugees. Despite that they were there in Tripoli when I was there and they were meeting these refugees but they completely ignored them.
(S.P) – Many people would say that these are separate cases; they don’t represent the whole militia or the whole armed rebels. Why do you want to label the whole thing as committing atrocities against civilians?
(L.P) – I don’t understand the question…
(S.P) – The scale. You said that you’ve seen violations of human rights committed by the armed rebels in Libya. But many people from other media outlets will say “yes there have been atrocities but these are separate cases like what happens in Homs right now in Syria.” When insurgents kill civilians, they attack buses, they abduct girls, and rape girls and they say “but look this is a separate case, this is not the general case.” How would you respond to something like this?
(L.P) – The atrocities that were committed were wide spread. For example from the beginning of the crisis in Libya, there was a policy of systematically targeting in particular black Libyans and other African migrants and this was systematic. We saw that when Tripoli fell, supposedly, or when NATO bombed the rebels into Tripoli, we saw images that the mainstream media couldn’t ignore, of dozens of black Libyans and other migrants being captured and put into pickup trucks tied to poles. So to say that this is just an unfortunate consequence of the rebel is just naïve and ignoring what is in front of your eyes and trying to whitewash the situation. If for example a Syrian soldier, a legitimate Syrian soldier, kills a civilian, perhaps by accident perhaps not, then the whole army is tarred with targeting civilians. So why the double standards?
(S.P) – You said something very interesting. You said that insurgents didn’t enjoy support they didn’t command respect they commanded fear among the people. But some people would say lets keep the insurgents, give them time to work with the people and the people would reject them eventually, the people will refuse to cooperate with them, will report them and turn them in.
(L.P) – Of course there were some elements of Libyan society that did support the armed insurgents, I believe that they were perhaps a little bit naïve about who they were, but now if you look yesterday there was a big protest in Ben Ghazi where I think there was something like 4000 people protesting outside the NTC (National Transitional Council) Headquarters. Mustafa Abdl Jalil’s car was attacked and I believe he was held up in the building for about four hours. And there were many reports coming out where people were quoted as saying, “we fought for this so called revolution but actually probably things were better.”
(S.P) – In your opinion where are things going on the ground based on what you have seen in your recent stay in Syria.
(L.P) – It is clear that there is a lot of popular support for the President here. I get the sense that people here are extremely tired with the crisis and want a quick resolution to the situation but at the same time I am quite cynical because with the external parties, in particular Turkey and the Lebanese, continuing to provide logistical and financial support to these groups, then theres a big danger that the destabilising of the country will escalate. At the same time I don’t have any faith that the West will take the pressure off. Syria is very important for them in terms of the later confrontations with Iran, Russia and China. Of course Syria is in a much stronger position than for example Libya because of the support of the Russians in particular and also the Iranians. So there is some aspects that give me a lot of hope but there are also many things that make me cynical.
(S.P) – Also if you speak about the media coverage, do you think theres any turning back, it seems that the media have gone to far in portraying events in a certain way but they cant go back right now.
(L.P) – As you mentioned before there has been some positive reports , in terms of the Syrian government point of view, for example there was a report in The Guardian (British newspaper) a few days ago which completely admitted there was a lot of popular support for President Al-Assad…
(S.P) – There were fabricated YouTube footages that are being misused…
(L.P) – Exactly. A few months ago we never would have seen something like that in The Guardian. So this is a positive development. At the same time as you say, the media has gone so far that it is very difficult for them to actually begin to be honest, then they have to admit that they’ve been lying.
(S.P) – Can they turn back and say “look we’ve made a mistake we will change the way we cover things.”
(L.P) – They will never do that. Especially while the West wants war. As I said the media’s job in the West is to promote the foreign policy of their governments. If the West decides to take the pressure off, and find a way to get out of this hole that they’ve put themselves in, but they will never admit that they’ve been lying.
(S.P) – If we speak about, strategically, the events here in Syria, we’re facing a situation where a great deal of misinformation is being prompted by media outlets. How do you think we should deal with this in the future?
(L.P) – Well for the Syrian people, it is very important for them to have a strong consciousness about the agenda of external parties in particular and the media. The crisis such as this and the one in Libya shows the importance of developing countries that are under attack from the West to develop extremely effective media that can counter the overwhelming power that the western media and organisations like Al Jazeera have and not just in their own language but also in other languages because no matter how many people you have telling you the truth it is sad to say that the sheer marketing power of organisations such as BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, no matter how many times they are proved to have lied, people will always believe them because they have this strong brand and marketing power.
(S.P) – This is an important question. Why do people continue to believe these channels though they have been proven to be lying on various occasions? CNN declared that it has broadcasted footage from Syria that was untrue, not only that, they broadcasted footage of the Syrian army attacking towns while in fact it was footage of the Syrian army being attacked by insurgents in some areas. They acknowledge this and yet people still believe them. Al Jazeera on many occasions they lied about the case of Zeinab Hosni. They said she was killed, but she was alive. Why do people keep believing these channels?
(L.P) – I call it because of Western cultural supremacy and that unfortunately the culture of the West is so deeply embedded in peoples minds and hearts that even though we know that it is lying because it looks a certain way and because we have grown up believing that this is right. Essentially it is brainwashing. And as I said it is the power of marketing, you know people spend a lot of money understanding how to make people believe that black is white and white is black. So it is very important that countries like Syria, Russia and China and other countries that face this kind of propaganda also invest in marketing to be able to counter that.
(S.P) – They establish channels, the Iranians have Press TV, Syria has service in foreign languages, Russia has Russia Today, Latin America has TeleSur. For some reason we are not seeing any progress anything develop on the ground.
(L.P) – Yes but while these channels produce very good content and perhaps more objective reporting and honest reporting again it comes down to marketing. They don’t invest so heavily on marketing and the brand because they believe that the content of their work will shine through. But unfortunately this isn’t the case.
(S.P) – You paint a very dark image of journalists who are associated with intelligence services, channels who are carrying out foreign policies of their countries and unaware and maybe uncaring of public opinion. Is there any light at the end of that tunnel?
(L.P) – We have to learn from these situations. As I said we have to build our own. We can’t rely on other countries, media, I’m saying “we” I mean you, the Syrian people can’t rely on other countries media to tell their story. You have to have your own voice and you have to learn what is happening and understand what is happening and why it is happening. Why are we not focusing on Bahrain? Why aren’t we focusing on the protests in Saudi Arabia? This is because of imperialism and the imperialist control of global media and global culture and the global economy.
(S.P) – Hoping that we will overcome this crisis and take some of the advice that you have spoken about into consideration and into action. Thank you very much Lizzie Phelan.