Thursday, July 21, 2011

Syrian regime steps up propaganda war amid bloody crackdown on protests

TV, radio and internet campaigns paint glowing picture of president Bashar al-Assad and stir up sectarian tensions

Nour Ali in Damascus, Wednesday 20 July 2011

"Brute force has been the main weapon of the Syrian regime as it has sought to crush growing protests, killing at least 1,500 people and torturing hundreds more. But Syrians have also been besieged by relentless propaganda.

In a week that has seen at least 40 die and escalating violence in Homs, the country's third largest city, state radio and private stations owned by regime cronies have been blaring out songs exalting Bashar al-Assad as "Abu Hafez", suggesting his son Hafez could succeed him, or anointing him president for "all eternity".....

But as Assad's use of force has failed to crush the protests, now in their fifth month, propaganda has become a key element of regime efforts to rally support.

"The propaganda is relentless," said one businessman. "The regime has hijacked the idea of national identity and is pushing divisions." Official rhetoric is sectarian and blames foreign and Islamist armed miscreants for the violence. In contrast, the protesters have been keen to portray Syrians as united and peaceful.

Such crude misinformation can be surprisingly effective in a country where there is no independent media, reporting is difficult and news comes mainly from witnesses and amateur film footage...."

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