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November 1, 2012

Syrians Are War Correspondents, Too

A response to Terry Anderson’s “Running Toward Danger.”


Dear Mr. Anderson,

I read “Running Toward Danger” yesterday and I had to tell you how much it moved me. Syria is being ripped to shreds, the people are suffering, and the cities are being destroyed. We didn’t expect this degree of ruthlessness as a response to the people’s demands for freedom after 40 years of Assad tyranny, but as we know well, freedom is not free.

Your thoughts on war correspondents sacrificing everything for the truth applies not only to the brave journalists like Austin and Marie and Anthony and the dozens of journalists inside Syria now, but also to the Syrian men and women who stood behind the cameras, documenting the truth. We have lost dozens of citizen journalists in this revolution. Young men who were students, employees, fathers one day and became threatening targets the next day because of their cell phones, cameras, and laptops. They knew Syrians have been silent too long. Last year, they decided to never cover up Assad’s crimes with silence again. And they are paying a heavy price for it.

I don’t know what my dead friends would have answered your question, “Was it worth it?” But I do know what the ones who are alive and still film and photograph in Homs, Aleppo, Hama, Idleb, Daraa, and across Syria would say to the question, “Is it worth it to die for your camera?” They would say, “Yes.” Because they know for the first time in their lives, their voice matters and they are doing the most important job, to tell the truth while so many are telling lies. Telling the truth, in a way, has become even more important than freedom. It’s the road to freedom.

I’ve been writing about the revolution since the beginning. I didn’t expect to take on the role I now have when I began; telling my stories evolved into telling Syria’s stories. I only cared about one thing: telling the truth. Sometimes it seems like an impossible task. And many times the truth hurts. But we have to keep going and hope that what’s good in the people prevails over the evil.

When I read your piece, I remembered Anthony Shadid, a journalist who changed my life, and how much I miss his voice of truth. And I thought of Austin too. I pray he is safe and will return to his family soon.

Most of all, I wanted to tell you that your words made a difference to me. God bless you.

With much respect,

On Facebook, IDF illustrates Palestinian violence – with photo from Bahrain

An infographic purportedly depicting Palestinian attacks in the West Bank makes its case with a photo shot during a Bahrain protest. This would not be the first time the army posted misleading photographs to Facebook to serve its PR machine.

By Mati Milstein

On October 17, the Israeli military posted the above infographic on its Facebook page. The image includes a photograph of a young masked man holding a firebomb and featuring statistics regarding the number of firebomb attacks against Israelis in the West Bank since the start of 2012. The Israeli military urges Facebook users to share the image “because the mainstream media will not.”

In fact, the mainstream media did share this photo extensively – in its coverage of protests in Bahrain.

This powerful image has nothing to do with Judea, Samaria, Palestinians or Israelis. It was shot by Reuters photographer Hamad I Mohammed during protests in the Bahraini village of Salmabad last April.

The Israeli military’s decision to use foreign photos to illustrate attacks in the West Bank as part of its propaganda efforts (without indicating that the image is only an illustration) may raise some interesting questions about its own ethical perception and standards.

This is not the first time the army has faced this particular criticism. In June, the army marked gay pride month by posting a photograph of two male Israeli soldiers holding hands. It was later revealed that the two soldiers are not a couple and only one of them is gay.

The use of a photo unrelated to the incident it purports to be illustrating was also more striking given the recent Israeli reaction to another alleged misuse of photographs.

Last March, Israeli military and political figures demanded the United Nation’s OCHA office in Jerusalem fire a staff member after she tweeted a photograph of a fatally wounded girl, whom she indicated had just been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza.

Pro-Israel activists and government officials maintained that the photograph had been published by Reuters in 2006 and a veritable campaign was launched besmirching the OCHA employee. Beyond the hypocrisy inherent in doing something that you had only just condemned others for doing, we should remember a key distinction between the two incidents: While the OCHA employee published the concerned photograph on her private Twitter account, as a private citizen, the Israel Defense Force is an official body and its Facebook page is an official government channel.

There are two options here: 1) The Israeli military did not know the source of the Bahraini image and did not bother to investigate before choosing to use the image (an “investigation” that took me only five minutes); 2) The military was aware of the photograph’s origin and chose to use it anyway in a misleading manner.

The IDF Spokespersons’ new media section has been contacted for comment. This post will be updated should a response be received.


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