The Syrian government funded TV station Al-Ikhbaria has been accused of delivering propaganda for the government. BBC Arabic gains unprecedented access to show a very different perspective from inside the regime’s TV station. At the very heart of Damascus, opposite the Chief of Staff headquarters, crippled by car bombs in September, stands a building with a shiny blue façade and topped by towers of satellite dishes. In front a big screen proudly emits the building’s produce – the world according to Syrian state TV, engaged in the ‘media war’ that the Syrian government considers it is locked in with the hostile outside world. The newest and youngest weapon in this war is the Syrian News Channel, or Al Ikhbaria, a satellite channel that, they say, is the answer to such hostile voices as Al Jazeera, Al Arabia… many staff there said, the BBC. Journalists here walk along a knife-edge.
Two days before we arrived, a cameraman had been killed in the turbulent town of Deir Al-Zour, by the Free Syrian Army, we were told, bringing the total to five deaths in a year. Death threats by text or on facebook are common, as they are for other state media workers. Many journalists didn’t want to be filmed, for security reasons. We didn’t expect anyone to be pronouncing any criticisms of President Assad, whose portrait and photographs graced almost every room. What they won’t talk about is that the Mukhabarat is watching them.
Following a bomb in the area in their offices, 13 journalists were arrested and imprisoned. As winter is setting in, the violence intensifying, and there is no sign of negotiated peace. These journalists will be expected to continue offering support to the Syrian state, and face the possible consequences for the armed opposition and their own government.