Rus­sian, Western me­dia of­fer dif­fer­ent im­ages of Aleppo

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

While Western me­dia are filled with grim im­ages of life in ar­eas of Aleppo un­der siege by Rus­sian-backed Syr­ian govern­ment forces, Rus­sian news re­ports tell a very dif­fer­ent story. News out­lets such as CNN and the BBC promi­nently re­ported a United Na­tions spe­cial en­voy’s ob­ser­va­tion last week that rebel-held parts of the be­sieged city could be “com­pletely de­stroyed in two months” by Rus­sian and Syr­ian bom­bard­ment. On that same night, state-owned broad­cast­ers in Rus­sia glossed over the en­voy’s re­marks. In­stead, they aired sto­ries about the mor­tars Syr­ian rebels fired at an ex­pen­sive ho­tel where Rus­sian jour­nal­ists were stay­ing.

As Rus­sia’s air cam­paign in Syria en­ters its sec­ond year, the por­trayal of Aleppo has be­come a key weapon in the Krem­lin’s pub­lic in­for­ma­tion ar­mory as it looks to re­tain do­mes­tic sup­port for a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion that is gen­er­at­ing wide­spread con­dem­na­tion abroad. The Krem­lin-con­trolled TV chan­nels that are the pri­mary source of news for most Rus­sians barely men­tion the de­struc­tion in­flicted by the jets their govern­ment is fly­ing over re­bel­held ar­eas of the city. The less-ex­treme dam­age in ar­eas con­trolled by Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad and pur­ported links be­tween Western gov­ern­ments and Is­lamic ex­trem­ists no­tice­ably dom­i­nate the news­casts.

Geopo­lit­i­cal agenda

“Rus­sian me­dia is very se­lec­tive in what they show,” said Ul­rich Sch­mid, a pro­fes­sor of Rus­sian cul­ture at the Univer­sity of St Gallen in Switzer­land. “The main mes­sage the Rus­sian me­dia is try­ing to get across to au­di­ences is that Rus­sia is the only na­tion fight­ing Is­lamic State ef­fec­tively.” From the start of Rus­sia’s bomb­ing mis­sions in Syria, Western and Rus­sian me­dia have re­ported the as­sault through dif­fer­ent lenses. Rus­sian re­ports say Moscow’s air strikes are launched to wipe out ex­trem­ists. Western cov­er­age, by con­trast, gives time and space to claims Rus­sia backs As­sad to ad­vance its own geopo­lit­i­cal agenda.

The dif­fer­ences have been par­tic­u­larly stark in re­cent weeks, as in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism of Rus­sia’s ac­tions in Syria has in­ten­si­fied to in­clude al­le­ga­tions of war crimes. When the cease-fire bro­kered by the US and Rus­sia was col­laps­ing last month, Western me­dia fo­cused on a state­ment by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion that just 35 doc­tors were left in rebel-con­trolled ar­eas of Aleppo to care for 250,000 peo­ple.

Mean­while, even­ing bul­letins on Rus­sia’s main state-owned tele­vi­sion net­works showed al­most iden­ti­cal re­ports about a mor­tar shell that, af­ter fail­ing to ex­plode, be­came lodged in the roof of a school in govern­ment-held Aleppo. The al­most exclusive me­dia fo­cus on at­tacks ap­par­ently be­ing car­ried out by rebels on parts of Aleppo un­der As­sad’s con­trol ap­pears to be part of the Krem­lin’s me­dia strat­egy. Un­like rebel-held Aleppo, these ar­eas are less dam­aged. They have not been sub­ject to months of in­ten­sive ae­rial bom­bard­ment, nor have they seen their civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing hos­pi­tals, sys­tem­at­i­cally de­stroyed.

But a top news ex­ec­u­tive at the sprawl­ing state-owned Chan­nel One net­work said Rus­sian tele­vi­sion crews were just re­port­ing what they saw. “Rebels are be­sieg­ing ar­eas con­trolled by As­sad and they have re­cently been on the at­tack,” Chan­nel One’s di­rec­tor of news Kir­ill Kley­menov said in an in­ter­view. While re­port­ing on the dev­as­ta­tion in rebel-held parts of Aleppo, news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion sta­tions in the West have high­lighted the work of the White Hel­mets, the vol­un­teer civil de­fense force that digs the dead and in­jured out from col­lapsed build­ings. But the White Hel­mets, which was short­listed for a No­bel Prize, re­ceive much less cov­er­age in Rus­sian me­dia, where they are por­trayed as stooges for Western pow­ers. — AP

MOSCOW: In this file photo dated Fri­day, Oct 7, 2016, Rus­sian Deputy De­fense Min­is­ter Ana­toly Antonov speaks dur­ing a me­dia brief­ing in the De­fense Min­istry.— AP

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