Monday, June 18, 2012

Disinformation – the case of Mohammed Abdel Mawla al-Hariri

Mohammed Al-Hariri. Al Jazeera network.

     Syria has become a maelstrom of unsubstantiated press stories. We start this new section with the story of Mohammed Abdel Mawla al-Hariri, a Syrian citizen sentenced to death in April by a Syrian military court. According to a story sourced to the Skeyes Center for Media Freedom in Beirut:
         A Syrian court sentenced citizen journalist Mohammed Abdel Mawla al-Hariri to death for the crime of "high treason and contacts with foreign parties." He was arrested in April immediately after giving an interview to Al-Jazeera about conditions in his hometown of Daraa, in the southern part of the country. According to the report by the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, al-Hariri was tortured after his arrest. In the wake of the verdict and sentencing, he was transferred to Saidnaya military prison north of Damascus.

      The CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) then took up the story of Mohammed Abdel Mawla al-Hariri explaining that he was arrested on April 16 and is now awaiting execution in Saidnaya, known by many as the ‘black hole’ of Syria.
      With working in Syria becoming increasingly dangerous, foreign journalists have had to rely on local activists. Mohammed Abdel Mawla al-Hariri was one such activist and since the uprising he has been very active helping broadcast various demonstrations via satellite TV and uploading videos of rallies in Deraa. In a country where local citizens are targeted for collaborating with foreign media, checking the veracity of the news has become extremely difficult. There are many stories of journalists that have been detained or killed since the uprising started last year. Mohammed Abdel Mawla al-Hariri seemed to be one of them. For the first time since the uprising started, a ‘journalist’ had been sentenced to death by a military court.
The story was then taken up by Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans Frontiers).
However questions were asked about the veracity of the story as there appeared to be no record of any such death sentence being issued. The man may or may not have been snatched by Syrian Intelligence. He may or may not have been tortured. He may or may not have been killed. Such obscenities happen on a near daily basis. But our enquiries do seem to indicate that no citizen journalist was "sentenced to death" by a Syrian court in any official way. That part of the story was probably false - which has led some to question the whole story.
What is disturbing is that the Next Century Foundation, acting on behalf of the International Council for Press and Broadcasting raised the issue with the Skeyes Centre for Media and Cultural Freedom first on the 23rd May and most recently last Friday.
Unfortunately neither Skeyes, the CPJ, nor RSF has responded in any way at all to our repeated enquiries. But our tentative conclusion has to be that the story is a classic piece of disinformation. We have raised the issue with a Syrian journalist from Daraa, the home town of Mohammed Hariri, and his own initial conclusion, having made enquiries, is that, at least in regard to the key issue of the death sentence, the story is utterly false.
If you have a media issue you in regard to coverage of Syria you wish us to investigate, please do not hesitate to let us know and we will do our best to get back to you on the matter.

5 comments: review said...
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term paper writers said...

Good work!

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