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MEDIA ON TRIAL: Leeds Panel ‘Indicts’ Mainstream Press for its Media Malpractice on Syria

By Mark Anderson
21s Century Wire

The picture is becoming clearer with each successive military adventure: the mainstream media hides its ever-worsening malpractices behind a carefully crafted image of institutional respectability that has long been drilled into the heads of generations of people throughout the world. But this fragile façade, while it has been steadily eroded by various media missteps and scandals that were largely contained, is now in the process of collapsing — due to the western corporate media’s deplorable, deceptive and potentially criminal “reporting” regarding Syria.

This blunt reality hit home on May 27 when, in a jury-like manner, a panel of independent journalists and academics who gathered in Leeds, UK for the third-ever presentation of Media on Trial reached the following consensus: The mainstream media (MSM) doesn’t just “invert the truth” about the seven-plus years that Syria has been under siege by western and gulf-backed terrorist factions. Rather, the MSM appears to be guilty of increasing tensions and fostering deadly armed conflict in Syria—while apparently enabling known terrorist outfits.

About 200 people attended the event, hosted by the group Frome Stop War. Organizers had to scramble to find a third venue—an Islamic center—after the first two venues, the Leeds City Museum and an area hotel, abruptly cancelled their hosting of the event, due to intense external pressure. The museum banning even came about on the 3rd of May, which is ‘World Press Freedom Day‘. The biggest players that crudely attempted to smear members of the speaker’s panel and disrupt Media on Trial, close to the point of total cancellation, included Rupert Murdoch’s Times newspaper, Huffington Post, South Yorkshire Post, and the largely discredited “fact-checking” website Snopes.com.

What really captivated the Leeds audience was that key MSM elements, such as the taxpayer-funded BBC, were, in effect, “indicted” by the panelists for apparently having breached Britain’s Terrorism Act of 2006—all strands of evidence considered.

Setting the tone, Professor Piers Robinson (pictured above), Chair of Politics, Society and Political Journalism at Sheffield University, spoke of propaganda and the media. Robinson and Edinburg University Professor of Environmental Political Theory Tim Hayward, who also spoke, are members of the Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda. The other Leeds speakers were: independent investigative journalists Vanessa Beeley and Patrick Henningsen, of 21st Century Wire; former UK ambassador to Syria Peter Ford; and independent researcher and blogger Robert Stuart.

Robinson’s observations of the modern mainstream media point to what he described as a “euphemism industry” surrounding government communications activity, where the state will regularly employ terms like ‘strategic communication’ instead of calling it what it really is – which is propaganda. This tried and true practice involves no less than active manipulation of the public mind instead of passive persuasion; the peddling of false information or omitting true information; as well as, among other things, engaging in misdirection, where certain events are used to distract the public away from more crucial matters. Much of this stems back to Edward Bernays, the nephew of psychiatrist Sigmund Freud who’s still widely regarded as the father of modern propaganda. Robinson recalled that Bernays used the words “invisible government”—long before the touchy expression “conspiracy theory” came into vogue—to describe the alliance and illicit influence of big media and advertising agencies, government agencies, the denizens of high finance; public education; academia etc.

Cutting even closer to the core, Stuart explained his investigation into a BBC production called “Saving Syria’s Children.” He showed considerable evidence of the use of fake burn victims and other misleading characteristics of an “attack” that supposedly happened—strongly indicating that the production was designed to establish a false narrative and foster animosity toward the alleged aggressor, Syria’s government.

Stressing the moral and ethical aspects of a corrupt media, Hayward noted, “The media’s role is not moral, but it’s not their place to undermine morality,” nor is it the media’s role to foster war or the breaking of the law, he added.

During the event, footage was shown from British Channel 4 reports where the network’s news anchors used bullying tactics to try and browbeat Syrian citizens and witnesses into con-curing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been killing his own people with barrel bombs and other means—in addition to the channel’s highly implausible “news” account of a woman anonymously dressed in traditional Middle Eastern attire calling on Brits—via Channel 4—to join the Syrian “resistance.”

Channel 4 viewers were treated, or one might say mistreated, to an account of this woman having traveled to Syria, where she carried a heavy military rifle on one shoulder while walking with her child to the grocery store, amid the claim that she was pregnant. This had all the makings of a calculated media effort to rally any other British citizens to join the anti-Assad “resistance.” After all, if a struggling mother could fight the “evil” Assad, anyone could.

Vanessa Beeley recounted matters for which she’s especially well-known—finding during her six visits to Syria since the conflict began that the White Helmets, an alleged “civil rescue” outfit, is actually a deep-state operations tool. Syria’s real civil-rescue units are entirely separate. She found firsthand that the White Helmets show up to aid terrorist forces, not regular Syrians.

Moreover, she and Henningsen have found irrefutable evidence, on the ground in Syria, that bombings reported by the MSM didn’t happen and alleged chemical weapons attacks were staged. “At what point does this cease to be journalism and become the glorification and lionization of terrorism?” Beeley asked the Leeds audience, while noting that Syrians themselves have told her that the core problem is “media terrorism.”

“Their words, not mine,” she added.


Jury Panel: Speakers listen on during open Q & A at the end of the event.

Stewart explained his investigation into a BBC Panorama episode called “Saving Syria’s Children.” He showed considerable evidence of the use of fake burn victims and other misleading elements of an “attack” that supposedly happened—strongly indicating that the production was designed to establish a false narrative and foster animosity toward the alleged aggressor, Syria’s government.

Additionally, Dr. Saleyha Ahsan, a former British military member who became a Guardian columnist and war reporter, was shown in a video re-ferring to “micro-simulation,” a concept that defines staging events down to their last detail, to make them look real.

Stewart also showed photographs of then-BBC field journalist Ian Pannell in 2013 casually riding in a clearly marked vehicle belonging to an apparent terrorist affiliate, “Ahrar al Sham,” even though the BBC itself, ironically, has called al Sham a “hardline Islamist group.”

Ford, for his part, said that “aiding and abetting” war should be on the “charge sheet” against the MSM, not the mere claim of the media being “naughty,” as implied during the UK’s 2011-12 Leveson Inquiry into media malpractices.

Henningsen remarked, “How can we have a functioning democracy without a functioning fourth estate (the news media)? Do we even have a fourth estate?”

If a responsible, independent and ethical press is still the cornerstone of a modern democracy, then that question should be a wake-up call for all of us.

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Author Mark Anderson is an independent journalist and researcher, and editor of The Truth Hound website.

READ MORE PROPAGANDA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Propaganda Files

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