One-hundred and eighty-two people were killed in Syria on Thursday alone – 104 of them civilians and rebel fighters. It is estimated that more than 36,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad’s regime began 19 months ago. It’s far from headline news in America – and in Syria more civilians have been murdered by the Assad regime than those killed during Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and 9-11 combined.
The News Network of the Syrian Armed Forces posted to Facebook this week that “sources confirmed to us that Hurricane Sandy that is slamming the US was set off by highly advanced technologies developed by the heroic Iranian regime that supports the resistance, with coordination of our resistive Syrian regime.” In September, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, blamed the West for destroying his country’s rain clouds. Perhaps a few mentions in media, but far from headlines.
The Iranians work to build a nuclear bomb and have a horrid human rights record. Any US State Department report on Iran is filled with reports about murder, torture, rape, beating, harassment, abduction, jailing, and mock trials of religious and ethnic minorities and others as commonplace in Iran. The regime has executed more than 4,000 gay men and women since the Islamic Revolution brought it to power in 1979 – and that’s before we start talking about the lack of women’s rights in Iran. Yet, it’s far from front-page news, and Iran is most often thought of in the media as Israel’s problem.
For many reasons there is a blatant double standard on media coverage in the Middle East, as graffiti from teenage settlers can dominate media coverage more than mass killings in Arab countries.
But one of the reasons is that Arabs use PR professionals – as an example, in the last year alone, Bahrain, which has a horrid human rights record, has employed 18 PR Agencies. And professionals influence media.
In February 2011, one of the most glamorous magazines in the world, Vogue, ran an amazing profile along with gorgeous pictures of Asma Assad, Syria’s first lady, titled “Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert,” which described her as “glamorous, young, and very chic – the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.” It didn’t happen by accident – a NY PR firm representing Syria placed the story in the media. (The same firm that had previously represented Muammar Gaddafi).
It would not surprise me to learn that Iran is using a communications agency to tell their story to the world today – and undoubtedly Assad continues to use one. The Middle East is known for oil money – I wonder which of my competitors are taking blood money from countries like Syria and Iran to help manage media as people are being killed.