‘Story wouldn’t have been used if #Assad couldn’t be blamed,’ one activist tweeted, adding to the social media backlash to the misleading story.
MINNEAPOLIS — A prominent mainstream British newspaper blamed the Syrian government for the recent death of a competitive swimmer in Aleppo, despite evidence that the shelling which took her life was launched by Western-backed rebel forces.
In a report for the Independent published on Sunday, Katie Forster appeared to blame Syrian government forces for the deaths of Mirielle Hindoyan, a university student and competitive swimmer, and her 12-year-old brother, Arman, both of whom died during intense shelling in the contested city of Aleppo on Friday.
The siblings’ deaths “came after medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said there had been a ‘bloodbath’ in Aleppo amid a sustained assault on the city by pro-Assad forces backed by Russian warplanes,” Forster reported.
As her source, Forster cited a Sept. 30 report by Aleppo-based Armenian news outlet Kantsasar, and a Facebook post on an Armenian Youth Association page confirming Mirielle Hindoyan’s death. But media analysts and peace activists soon took to social media to correct the record, noting that Kantsasar actually blamed rebel forces for the attack. Ben Norton, a politics staff writer at Salon, was one of several journalists who tweeted about the error:
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) October 2, 2016
Other Twitter users suggested the move was part of a deliberate effort by the mainstream media to blame the Syrian government and its leader, Bashar Assad, for ongoing violence in the region while downplaying violence committed by Syrian rebels, many of whom are armed with Western weaponry.
— Steve E Ennever (@MusicMiscreant) October 2, 2016
Alison Meuse, a reporter for NPR based in Beirut, also suggested the Independent’s report reflects a mainstream media bias guiding reporting on the Syrian civil war.
We call a spade a spade when airstrikes hit hospitals on opposition side. Keep up your standards when it comes to rebel shelling on gov side https://t.co/ePFd0XiP2k
— AԼison Meuse (@AliTahmizian) October 2, 2016
As of Wednesday morning, no correction had been posted on the article. Instead, the report was modified, without fanfare or apology, to reflect the controversy. Journalist Nour Samaha noted:
instead, she quietly updates with this: pic.twitter.com/ouk5ADAEZ7
— Nour Samaha (@Nour_Samaha) October 3, 2016
With both Democrats and Republicans calling for increased Western military intervention in Syria, a growing number of mainstream media outlets are promoting the cause of war, particularly through selective reporting on the siege of Aleppo.
Rebels targeting of civilians in West Aleppo doesn't even make it to Western Media coverage. 13 civilians including children died in 24 hrs pic.twitter.com/nC1lXpdXc7
— Bassem (@BBassem7) October 1, 2016
The media tends to suggest that the entire city of Aleppo is a war zone besieged by the Syrian government, while it is actually divided into two enclaves, eastern and western Aleppo. Vanessa Beeley, an independent journalist who traveled to Aleppo in August, wrote for MintPress News on Sept. 20:
“The east is occupied by a number of groups backed by the United States, NATO and their allies in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Civilians in the government-held area of western Aleppo describe these groups broadly as ‘terrorists,’ often without noting any specific group.”
Over 1.5 million civilians live in western Aleppo, which is controlled by the Syrian government, while about 200,000 people live in eastern Aleppo, which is occupied by 50,000 rebels and their families, Beeley reported, citing figures provided by the Aleppo Medical Association.
Beeley also noted that the media ignores the West’s role in creating Aleppo’s humanitarian crisis in their rush to blame Assad for the civil war:
“In most Western media reports, little mention is made of this division of Aleppo which was created by the incursion of factions of armed insurgents (or, as the mainstream media and U.S. government call them, ‘moderate rebels’) which drove hordes of civilians out of the eastern parts of the city into the safety of the Syrian government-held western area.”
Watch “Why Everything You Hear About Aleppo Is Wrong” from Ron Paul Liberty Report: