After the American Democratic Party, and the campaign team of Emmanuel Macron, it is our small NGO ASML / Syria that finds itself in the crosshairs of Russian propaganda. It is therefore a great honor for us to know that our modest project to support Syrian civil society is at interesting for the Russians as the American and French elections. The mysteries of the Kremlin’s decisions are impenetrable …
In order to discredit our crowdfunding campaign, Sputnik News have issued no less than two articles with audio podcasts and a radio program within one week in June 2017. Beyond the ludicrous disproportion between the means of propaganda deployed and our project of training Syrian women to journalism, Sputnik News again show intellectual dishonesty and serious violations of the principles of journalistic ethics.
After publishing a first insulting, false and defamatory article, editor Dimitri Boschmann proposed us to exercise our right of reply, which we immediately did. Our answer must have seemed too convincing, as they deleted 85% of the text (leaving only 93 words out of 634), presented our answer as if it was an interview and clouded it with a flood of new defaming words. All this constitutes serious breaches of journalistic ethics.
Links to Sputnik News 2nd article and radio podcast:
Below is the complete answer we sent them on June 21, 2017-06-29
Thank you for contacting me to reply to the article you wrote about our association and our project.
I will respond to the three main criticisms mentioned in the article.
You have written: “This presentation made in the spirit of universal values comes with a photo of a woman completely veiled. Confused with these contradictions, Sputnik addressed … »
First of all, there are no photographs of women wearing the full veil in the project description on Ulule. The women in question wear the hijab as the overwhelming majority of Sunni Muslim women now living in Syria. We welcome women who want to participate in our training and we will not refuse a participant because of her religion or her clothes. We deny discrimination precisely in the name of universal values.
Then Mrs. Midani adds that “this project seeks to encourage” war journalism, “and dangerous circles could use it to convey their ideas. Then, “If we drop the masks, it means enlisting women to be journalists in order to make propaganda“ and “manipulation”. These allegations are unfounded. Once the training is completed, these women will be able to express themselves on subjects that are important to them, and that they will have chosen. It is a complete misconception to say that it is propaganda since the project aims to give a voice to a category of the population whose problems and daily realities are taken very little into account. Moreover, the project does not aim at promoting war journalism. As it is written clearly in the project, the subjects covered in the blog will concern daily life and society issues. The project seeks to encourage “positive” journalism: inspiring stories aimed at encouraging women to take more initiatives and play a greater role in their communities. It could not be further from “war journalism”.
Finally, you write that Mrs Midani “draws attention to the fact that the journalism training concerns two areas where Jabat al-Nosra and Daech are present – Ghouta and Idleb -“ where no one dares to enter. ” In this context, she fears that people linked in one way or another to the extremists may be behind the initiative. “ First, it is a serious factual error that demonstrates the very little knowledge that Mrs. Midani has of the situation on the ground. Daech is not present in the Ghouta, nor in Idleb. Indeed, Jabat Al-Nosra is powerful in Idleb, and that is the reason for our activities. All of ASML / Syria’s projects engage in the struggle for freedom of the press and those who want to prevent it, that is to say radical Islamist groups and the regime, by strengthening local civil society.
In the north of the country, radical Islamist groups are certainly powerful, but they encounter very strong resistance: activists, members of associations, professors, trade unions, local councils, big families etc. And journalists are most important actors because they have been the backbone of Syrian civil society since 2011. In Maarat Al-Numan in March 2015, the population took to the streets to oppose Jabat al-Nosra. Public pressure combined with the media campaign of local journalists forced Jabat Al-Nosra to leave the city. Fighting for democracy, against dictatorship and for values of peace, moderation and tolerance is the ‘raison d’être’ of ASML / Syria. Asserting the contrary is either a misunderstanding of the situation or a desire to mislead public opinion.
The various articles accuse us of supporting Al-Qaeda or Daesh, of indoctrinating women, of being led by the Muslim Brotherhood or by lay Christians.
All of this was done without giving any empirical evidence. The “journalist” invents an alternate reality and adduces pseudo-experts such as Patricia Lalonde, well-known propaganda relay of the Assad regime, or Ayssar Midani, President of an obscure “Foundation Of the Offsrping of Ishtar”, who regularly speaks in the forums for the French ultra-right, among which the Circle of Volunteers, Equality and Reconciliation and KontreKulture, always to defend the dictatorship of the Assad regime.
A striking example of their intellectual poverty is the conclusion of the last article they published. Beyond the grammar mistakes, their argumentation is absolutely unreal:
“Wanting to place women’s right at the center stage in Syria is insane, now that so many small groups are trying to hijack the country. It is obvious that women’s right isn’t their primary concern. “
It is really insane to be interested in women’s rights today when their rights are not respected. This is like saying: “It is insane, they want to establish peace in a country at war” …
It is precisely because Syrian women are the first victims of the war and that their rights are not respected that we made women’s rights our priority today. Even if this logic doesn’t seem to make sense for Russian propaganda.
Despite the hardness of the attacks, we consider being under the radar of Russian propaganda a mark of success. If they show interest in us, it is only because we are influential. We are proud of it and it confirms that we are on the right track. And we will continue.
Always working for freedom of expression, for the poor and for democracy.
ASML / Syria team