(Vatican Radio) According to a Catholic charity’s Middle East expert news agencies
are misrepresenting the conflict in Syria, to the detriment of the civilian population
struggling to survive an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Fr Andrew Halemba, Aid
to the Churchin Need’s Middle East projects coordinator says that media
reports about the country should be treated critically and with great caution. Listen
to Emer McCarthy’s interview with John Newton, spokesman for ACN in the United
He said: “The
situation in [Syria] is much more complex and difficult to assess than the media in
the West make it out to be. “Many media outlets are simply turning in sloppy reporting.
“They seem to be ignoring that there are also internal power struggles and religious
tensions between the different Muslim groups, tribal feuds and acts of vengeance are
a daily occurrence, and crime is rising in the country due to the unstable situation.”
Halemba explained that he was in constant contact with Church sources in the country.
He said: “Some Western media reports are received there with great outrage. “People
there feel exploited and deceived by international media. They complain that the West
is only pursuing its own interests.”
He said a Church source in the country,
which could not be named because of fears about safety, said that images were being
manipulated. Fr Halemba said the Church representative had told ACN: “We are witnesses
to vulgar falsehoods that brazenly and shamelessly inflate a small demonstration involving
around 50 people into a major demonstration with hundreds or even thousands of persons”.
“The photos are patched together from different pieces using image processing software
in studios created especially for this purpose.”
Al Jazeera has been
accused of faking images used in their news reports to increase the size of a crowd.
Critics maintain that in one image the same people appear in the photo several times. Fr
Halemba’s reference to allegations of media misuse of images come after photographer
Marco di Lauro accused the BBC of using one of his pictures from Iraq in 2003
to show the situation in Syria this year.
While acknowledging that the image
could not be independently verified, the BBC said the image purported to show
children killed in the May 2012 massacre in Houla. Mr di Lauro said the photograph
was taken in Iraq at the time of the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein. The
BBC later apologised and removed the image upon learning of the error.
Fr Halemba stressed that Aid to the Church in Need’s task was to provide practical
support to Christians in need, rather than intervene in political matters. The charity
is providing more than £103,000 (€130,000) in emergency aid, primarily for Christian
families in need. This includes just under £40,000 (€50,000) for those trapped in
the old city of Homs.