The media have again failed to live up to their reporting responsibilities on the crises in Libya and Syria. In particular, the media essentially accepted the claims put forward by the oppositions to Gaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria. Despite the violent nature of the uprisings in both countries, the media initially portrayed them as being part of the nonviolent ‘Arab Spring’.
In Libya, the media widely disseminated the false claims about massacres by Gaddafi’s forces. These claims helped build support for the rebels and soon led to a UN Security Council resolution for a ‘no-fly’ zone. It was amazing that any attempts to negotiate a resolution were brushed aside throughout the crisis. Unsurprisingly, this resolution was quickly expanded to a wide-scale bombing campaign led by France, Britain and the U.S. on the side of rebels in a civil war.
The media’s focus on massacres that hadn’t occurred drew attention from the identity of the rebels and their foreign backers. The media generally also failed to point out what life was like in Libya before the war, for example, that Libyans had the highest standard of living and the longest life expectancy in Africa as well as free health care and education. In addition, Libya had no debt and had over $150 billion invested overseas, much of which was confiscated.
The length of the military campaign, despite thousands of bombing raids, suggested that many Libyans strongly appreciated the major improvements under Gaddafi’s rule. Now Libya, like Iraq, has been devastated, and Libyans are already paying a steep price for this foreign-backed civil war.
We are seeing a repeat of this one-sided coverage now in Syria. Certainly the Assad regime has committed some terrible and horrific crimes, and those acts must be condemned. However, the media fail to point out that most Syrians are not supporting the armed uprising there. Syria’s two largest population centers remain calm with little signs of opposition to the Assad regime. Perhaps these Syrians fear the devastation of a foreign-backed civil war and thus accept Assad. Disappointingly the opposition Syrian National Council says that it won’t enter into negotiations until Assad resigns.
Incredibly, the media and some politicians here are now talking about yet another war, this time against Iran. Hopefully the U.S. public remembers the disinformation campaign about Iraq and won’t support another unnecessary and illegal war.