Rima Marrouch: „Young Syrians creating their own media outlets”
For the past forty years, during Baath party rule, Syrian media has been monopolized by the government. Government owned newspapers, al-Tishreen and al Baath, have been a consistent mouthpiece for official narratives.
During the first few years of president Bashar al-Assad’s rule, several private initiatives were launched, such as Addounia TV (Addounia means ‘world’ in English, established in 2005), or Arabesque radio (established in 2006), both of which are pro-government. Today, young Syrians inside and outside the country are establishing new media projects, including online newspapers and radio stations, which finally allow them to speak with their own voice.
“We refer to Addounia TV as ‘3aja2ib addounia’ (wonders of the world) because they twist reality and facts,” says Abu Khalid from Midan neighborhood. Some Syrians find pro-government media’s coverage of unfolding events in the country insulting and even inciting for violence. “Addounia TV would broadcast in the morning a program about healthy diets while Baba Amr was being shelled,” says Abu Karam from Karm al-Zeitoun in Homs.
Growing anger and frustration made some young Syrians to act. Hosam Badri, a co-founder of the new Syrian online station based outside of the country, New Start, felt that official media outlets do not give voice for regular people, which is why he decided to establish a new radio station. The core team consists of five people, working from 10am often until midnight in a small office filled with heavy smoke.
The radiostation covers news in the country by giving a platform for voices from inside the country but also focuses on Syrian culture by carrying interviews with Syrian musicians and writers. Their focus is on humanitarian needs of Syrians still living in Syria or meanwhile in exile. Their goal is to join the FM waves. “Our slogan is: A radiostation armed with hope because we are a peaceful radio station and we don’t want to support any military side,” explains Hosam Badri.
New Start is not the first Syrian online radiostation but it is the first that started online streaming. “1 plus 1 was first,” says Rania Badri, another co-founder of New Start. 1 plus 1 is done by a group of young Syrians who say : “Our voices are different but at the end our dreams are one: we want a free, democratic Syria.” “We want to build a country with a voice, an opinion, a thought, and a dream,” says their homepage.” The radio calls for a non-violent movement and general strike in Syria.
An online weekly, Souriatna (Our Syria), was established in October 2011. Its statement borrows from Ghandi: “When a slave decides to no longer be a slave, his chains break down.” The editorial team consists of seven young people; six of them are working in Syria. “The idea is to have independent media that would speak in our name after years of despotism. We want to do something that expresses our opinions and talk about the revolution and young people,” says one of the editors who asked to be identified as Gh. “We printed hard copies of first issues in Damascus and Homs but then came a cross difficulties due to security reasons,” says Gh. The weekly covers not only Syria but also follows the Arab Spring by publishing Tunisian, Egyptian, and Yemeni writers.
All the new media outlets promote the idea of non-violent movement but as Gh. puts is: “Our mission is to cover the reality, no matter what it is.”
© Photo : Salman Abdo. Pics show Rania Badri working at New Start online radio station
Rima Marrouch is a Syrian-Polish freelance reporter. She was brought up in Homs in the 90s, when Homs was a happier place. She has reported from Libya and Syria for the LA Times. She also worked for the “Committee to Protect Journalists/Middle East and North Africa Program”. Today, she is based in Lebanon, in Beirut.
You can follow Rima on Twitter and write her under @RimaMarr.
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