This morning, scanning the recent mainstream media’s (MSM’s) headlines re the state of Syria raised an interesting question:
“Just who is behind the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights?” The organisation whose ‘death and disruption’ figures are frequently reported by Reuters, Al-Jazheera… BBC et al, and whose gruesome statistics seem to be opinion-forming?
What am I talking about? Well, here is an example from English Al-Jazheera today (Saturday) [Ed note: this site updates frequently so the link may take you to an updated version of this story. You can always search the site for Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and get a good flavour of how news from this ‘organisation’ is reported by the mainstream.]
Syrian forces ‘shell districts of Homs’
Several people wounded in overnight bombardment of two central districts in the flashpoint city, activists say. Last Modified: 14 Apr 2012 08:45
Activists say Syrian forces have shelled two central districts in the city of Homs, even as a hard-won UN-backed ceasefire entered its third day.
The overnight bombardment of the city’s Jurat al-Shayah and al-Qarabis neighbourhoods continued into the morning, wounding several people, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
Also this morning, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.com carries a report (by-lined: Reuters and The Associated Press) which cites figures from the ubiquitous British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
So who the heck are the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and can their reports be relied upon? (Bearing in mind that Syria is closed to outsiders; even, one assumes, British-based ones.) To begin an answer, and to get a scale of SOHR’s coverage, I thought I would fertle about in the online news websites to see what came up.
Here are the results of a quick search of several well-known media outlets for the term “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”:
- 571 results from Reuters
- 208 results from The Daily Telegraph
- 180 results from Aljazeera
- 299 results from BBC World News
I expect more such results could be added given the time and patience to search further. Readers should note that I have not checked all the entries in each of the above results. Given a ‘heads up’ – a pointer – I trust that you can do your own detailed research to satisfy your own curiosity about the amount of ‘spin’ the MSM is subjected to and / or generates for our subjection.
Clearly, SOHR gets significant media coverage.
Of course, rather than reporting details of death and mayhem as pronounced by SOHR, it is possible that some of the search results could be articles raising the same questions as this blog. Who is this organisation? Who is behind it? What is their motive? Why should MSM publish their reports as true and correct? Why should readers believe those reports?
At present, my answer to those questions is: Who knows for certain? However this piece, published by the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar online newspaper (English version) may hold the beginnings of an answer?
Here are a few links that might be useful when trying to guage the who, what, where, when, why and how of SOHR:
This appears to be Abdulrahman’s SOHR group [http://www.syriahr.com/ (Arabic) and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Syrian-Observatory-for-Human-Rights/121855461256134 (English)]
The rival SOHR group of Mousab Azzawi [http://www.syriahr.org/ (Arabic) with some content in English]
BBC’s profile of SOHR – as originated by Rami Abdul Rahman [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15896636]
The Syrian National Council [http://www.syriancouncil.org/]
Wikipedia profile of Syrian National Council [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_National_Council]
(The Kurdish group seems recently to have split from the Syrain National Council [http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Apr-06/169407-kurdish-opposition-quits-syrian-national-council.ashx)]
National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB) [http://syrianncb.org/category/english-topics/] or is this [http://www.ncsyria.com/] its website?
Wikipedia profile of National Coordination Body for Democratic Change [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Coordination_Committee_for_Democratic_Change]
Syrian Arab News Agency [http://www.sana.sy/index_eng.html]
Voltaire Net carryies updates from the Syrian Centre for Documentation [http://www.voltairenet.org/_Syrian-Center-for-Documentation_?lang=en] About which group Voltaire says:
Independent youth media project created on 1-11-2011. Its members are Syrian journalists and media representatives who collect information through a variety of sources on events taking place in Syria, compare this information with the center’s reports from all the Syrian cities then transfer and update the news hourly. This center is an attempt to document all the events taking place in Syria since 15-3-2011 aiming to create a comprehensive database contains all the information related to the Syrian crisis. [Ed: link directly to the online document centre in English; contains video footage – some of which is explicit.]