Across the Bay

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Guardian Hearts Mukhabarat Media

Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism and blogger for The Guardian, is celebrating "the latest stage in the liberalisation of the Syria's [sic] media." If your head spun in bewilderment, unable to recollect when the "first" stage of "liberalization" even began, or if your sides split with uncontrollable laughter, wait till you hear the rest. Greenslade wrote:

An English-language daily newspaper is being launched in Damascus tomorrow and will circulate throughout Syria. Baladna English, the country's first English-language paper, marks the latest stage in the liberalisation of the Syria's [sic] media. The publisher, United Group, already publishes the Arabic-language Baladna.

Yes, indeed. The United Group. After all, what better harbinger of liberalization than the group's chairman, Majd Suleiman? Who is he, you ask? Don't worry, Professor Roy Greenslade didn't have a clue who he was either.

Majd Suleiman is the son of Bahjat Suleiman, the Alawite former head of the internal security division of the General Security Directorate. Nothing says "liberalization" better than the Syrian mukhabarat.

Somehow, this already pathetic mess of a graph was made even funnier when The Guardian's Brian Whitaker intervened in the comments section to correct his colleague's factual mistake:

I think you mean it's the first non-governmental English language paper.

For many years there was a government-run daily, Syria Times, but it closed last year.

That's right, Mr. Whitaker: it's "non-governmental." Just like Al-Watan is Syria's first "independent" daily... owned by Assad's cousin, Rami Makhlouf. It's Syria's version of the MSM: Mukhabarat Security Media.

Keep that in mind the next time you read items in The Guardian or elsewhere about the "latest stage" of the "liberalization" of the media, the economy or whatever in Syria.

Addendum: Here's another little anecdote that I was told about Suleiman and the "liberalization" of Syrian media. You know Ibrahim Hamidi, the Syrian messenger/reporter for al-Hayat? Suleiman had bought him a Jaguar when Hamidi was his guy. Then, in a typical inter-mukhabarat power play, Asef Shawkat put Hamidi in jail, just to show him (and his sponsor) who's boss. After that, Hamidi became Shawkat's guy. Suleiman was also later transferred from his position at the internal security division.