While the battle rages on the ground in Syria, Adnan Mahmoud, the country’s Minister of Information says another war is also being waged. He claims foreign governments are distorting the truth on events such as the Houla massacre.
In an interview with RT, Mahmoud outlines why it is so important to provide unbiased broadcasting on the bloody events taking place in the country, what measures his government is taking to ensure public access to information, and offers his views on what he calls politically motivated media tactics in support of the opposition.
Russia Today: The Arab League Council has asked satellite operators Arabsat and Nilesat to suspend the broadcast of Syrian satellite channels. What do you think about this decision?
Adnan Mahmoud: This decision is an attack on free media and freedom of expression. It’s an attack on Syrian media. The purpose is to hide the truth about what is really going on in Syria from people both inside and outside the country. This is part of the smear campaign launched by certain satellite channels and supported by the Gulf nations behind it. The decision contradicts fundamental moral and professional standards for mass media in the Arab world and globally. It contradicts the rules and regulations for satellite broadcasting as agreed by the Council of the Arab Ministers of Information. This decision was made by foreign ministers, which means it was politically motivated – it’s part of the anti-Syrian political agenda. We all understand that these plans are being implemented on political and economic levels. The main purpose of this decision is to silence Syrian channels that can uncover the role of some of these countries providing support to terrorists in Syria, helping them financially and smuggling weapons into the country. They’re also afraid of Syrian channels disclosing the truth about terrorist connections of some media outlets, financed and supported by these outside players. We have had a situation where terrorists acted as correspondents for foreign media. The very people responsible for deaths, filmed their crimes and sent the footage to the media, blaming the government for the atrocities. The Syrian people and the Ministry of Information condemn this decision. The ministry considers it as its responsibility to provide satellite broadcasting for Syrian satellite channels.
RT: How will the government organize satellite broadcasting for Syrian satellite channels? Do you plan to work together with Arabsat and Nilesat, since you have contracts with them?
AM: Considering the current situation of war and hysteria around Syria, we anticipated that a decision of this sort would be made, especially after the US and Europe imposed sanctions on Syrian media outlets. Also the US and Canada took technical measures to stop Syrian TV channels and radio stations from broadcasting in North America. So we are prepared to help Syrian satellite channels continue broadcasting through different satellites in the same orbits that are used by Arabsat and Nilesat. We have the capability.
As for the Arabsat and Nilesat satellites, did you know that Arabsat is controlled by the Council of Arab Ministers of Information, and the head of the Council is a Saudi? Saudi Arabia was one of the Gulf nations that suggested slapping Syria with sanctions. If Arabsat complies with this decision, this will constitute a violation of satellite broadcasting regulations. This would be a politically motivated step, organized by the external forces that are attacking Syria and the Syrian media. As for Nilesat, it is a joint-stock company. Some of the stock belongs to the Egyptian government; some, to private investors. That’s why we insist that Nilesat should not comply with this decision. It should honor its legal and contractual obligations to the Syrian Ministry of Information, which means continuing the satellite broadcast of our channels. I want to assure all of our viewers in Syria and abroad that Syrian satellite channels will continue broadcasting without any disruption. There is no need to get new antennas or reprogram your equipment. Today, daily satellite broadcasting in Syria is 16 hours. Many specialized information channels have not reached this level yet.
RT: Since Arab states and other countries, as you say, are waging an information war against Syria, does the Syrian government media still provide balanced and unbiased coverage? Do they provide an accurate picture of the situation in Syria, especially considering that they were not prepared for this information war?
AM: First of all, it should be said that everything about the mass media is in fact down to the audience. If we take polls run inside and outside Syria we shall see that the audience of the Syrian satellite channels has grown, and so has the number of viewers who perceive these channels as the source to turn to for live news coverage. Syrian satellite channels provide live coverage 16 hours a day, and this includes both the official channels and the specialized and private channels. Thus, we can say that the official Syrian media has taken a firm lead in the coverage of the barbaric war Syria has been forced into and in exposing the plans to undermine the strength and the spirit of the Syrian people. I am deeply convinced that the recent sanctions against our mass media came as a response to its increased impact. Had there been no such impact, there would be no need to introduce sanctions against our mass media. The American and European sanctions, followed by those imposed by some Gulf States at the recent Arab League meeting, only confirm that the influence of the Syrian media has grown. Because of all that, we will have to develop our information policy and improve the structure of the Syrian media.
RT: The Arab League seeks to shut down some of the Syrian channels but the Annan plan actually calls for as many channels as possible to cover the events in Syria.
AM: Of course, it’s very strange. We asked Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council “who will protect freedom of speech, democratic principles and liberties?” How can you shut down Syrian national media when the Annan plan calls for free accreditation for foreign media coming to Syria to cover the situation here? And we have 180 media outlets from all over the world represented in Syria, and over 100 accredited foreign reporters permanently working here, traveling freely across the country to cover the events. How can you shut down Syrian satellite channels and at the same time allow foreign news services to operate freely? This will result in biased coverage.
All this is part of the information war waged against Syria. We know that 80% of the satellite channels dedicate 30 minutes of their news hour to Syria today. And a recent study shows that 90% of satellite coverage on Syria has nothing to do with the actual situation in the country. It’s all lies and fabrications. This again proves that there is a real information war waged against Syria, with real facts being substituted with fabrications. These lies are the only way for them to achieve their objectives in their war against Syria.
The Houla massacre is a good example of that. As soon as the first pictures of the massacre were released, everybody started accusing the Syrian army and security forces. But we all know who was really behind this crime. The atrocities used against the Syrian people, as well as the sanctions introduced against the Syrian government media, have revealed the true nature of those waging war against Syria.
Today, the people of Syria are targeted by terrorists who are armed and sponsored by regional powers like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as by Western nations, such as the US. Those who often talk about fighting terrorism have joined their forces today to support terrorists attacking Syria.