Information Sources: “I follow all the channels”

Syrians struggle to obtain objective and accurate information about the situation in their country. Most rely on television. Both regime supporters and opponents said they tended to stay tuned to their preferred channel, though some respondents from both groups paid attention to media run by the other side in order to hear what they say or obtain some approximation of the truth. Conflict, displacement, and infrastructure damage (lack of electricity and internet) prevent some from accessing news sources, forcing them to rely on word of mouth. A perceived lack of independent sources — from the perspective of both regime opponents and supporters — lead some to trust information only from people they know personally, or to seek information on the internet.

Television Most Important Source of Information

Regime supporters and opponents alike depended on television for their national news but relied on different stations. Regime supporters watched local stations such as Al-Dunya, Al-Jadeeda, and Al-Ekhbariya Al-Suriyya. Regime opponents tended to tune into stations based abroad, such as Al-Arabiya, Al-Jazeera, and Arabic versions of BBC, Sky News, France 24, and CNN, as well as local stations such as Shada Al Huriah, and Deir-el-Zor.

Some respondents checked in with government or opposition outlets to hear what was being reported about the other side. Some tried to triangulate to the real story by viewing both.

I follow all the channels and form an independent point of view. I do not 100 percent adopt the regime point of view, and I do not 100 percent adopt the opposition point of view, because both sides tend to exaggerate and invest in media for personal purposes.
— Sunni man (anti-regime), 28, Aleppo

Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya, and sometimes we watch Al-Dunya Channel. We can call people to know what is happening, and go back to watch Al Dunya Channel and we notice that news is fabricated.
— Sunni woman (anti-regime), 29, refugee, Turkey

Both pro- and anti-regime respondents also relied on word of mouth transmitted electronically. They use mobile and internet messaging sources (SMS, What’s App, Skype) and the phone.

Respondents Struggle to Obtain Objective Information

Pro- and anti-regime respondents alike complained about the difficulty of finding objective information about the situation in the country.

The problem is that there is no transparency on television. If there was an eye-witness who narrates a certain story it would be more reliable for me as it may have happened with him or someone who saw it in front of him.
— Sunni woman (pro-regime), 25, Aleppo

Actually we become confused and do not know who to believe, but I think that channels like Al Jazeera broadcast sort of credible news.
— Sunni man (anti-regime), 38, Aleppo

Internet Provides Independent Information

Many respondents craved independent sources of information and looked mostly to the internet for it, particularly Twitter, Facebook, Al-Jazeera, and among Aleppo respondents, a site called Aleppo News, which provides localized information with minimal propaganda.

Facebook mostly. Group pages like the Raqqah Youth Group, Revolution Sana, and Al Tabaqqa Youth Revolution.
— Sunni man, (anti-regime), 47, IDP in Raqqah

Through the internet I can follow all proposals and opinions extensively and quickly. I can also check the forums without only listening to the voice of the regime.
— Christian man (anti-regime), 50, IDP in Homs

The Displaced Rely on Internet, Informal Networks

For the displaced and refugees, informal networks of friends and family were the best source of accurate information about events in their home areas, provided there are people left in their villages or neighborhoods to give them the news. They also rely on TV and the internet.

My town is close to Qalaat al-Madiq, so whenever I hear any news about Qalaat al-Madiq I call my townspeople to check on them. They too call me whenever anything important takes place.
— Sunni man, 41, IDP in Hama

I mainly depend on neighbors who didn’t emigrate. Secondarily I use online and TV. I have good relations with my neighbors, and they are on the spot. What they say will be closer to accurate.
— Sunni man (anti-regime), IDP in Aleppo

Few Listen to Radio, Read Print, or Get SMS News

Only those sitting in shops or cars all day, or who have no electricity, tend to listen to radio news. Some questioned the objectivity of these sources. “Because of my work I listen to it [radio] a lot, but I do not consider it as a news source. It is just like newspapers, not accurate and it only cheers for the regime,” said an anti-regime Sunni man from Aleppo. One IDP man from Aleppo said, since the regime had withdrawn from the area he is in, there are limited radio broadcasts called Aleppo Now and Syria Breezes.

Lack of electricity is a problem in some areas, so sometimes participants rely on battery-powered radio if they can’t watch television. “I prefer the radio because it works whether there is electricity or not,” said an anti-regime Sunni man from Hama.

Few, if any, on either side of the regime divide rely on print. “I do not have time to sit and read a newspaper, [and] even if I wanted to all the newspapers in the country are under the surveillance of the regime and only write what the regime wants,” said an anti-regime Sunni man from al-Qamishli.

The Syrian revolution is being televised and each side has their own TV stations which are the primary news sources for their supporters, as well as the international Arabic broadcasters. The internet is the second most important source. Phone calls and other electronic messages from friends and family are critical for IDPs and exiles seeking news from their home areas. Radio and print are relatively minor news sources.

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He Who Did Wrong Should Be Accountable: Syrian Perspectives on Transitional Justice Copyright © 2014 by the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license). All Rights Reserved.

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