Europe starves, Americans are mentally ill: Syrian state media
Enab Baladi – Mamoun al-Bustani
The official Syrian regime media and those close to it have been reporting news and coverage of the economic and living crises in Western countries, especially the countries that have taken a clear stance against the regime since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011.
The state-run media and its affiliates focus on high prices, inflation rates, hunger, and poverty, mainly in Europe, the United States, and Turkey, and the impact of this on the people’s psyche.
This coverage attempts to justify the failure of economic policies and the crises of hunger and unemployment caused by the regime’s security policies, as its media exaggeratedly turns the attention of the tired public to problems elsewhere in the world.
Generally, the regime’s media justifies its provision of limited coverage of the rise in prices and the economic crisis in Syria with pretexts for the failure of its successive governments to find solutions to economic problems by including in those coverages justifications such as the effects of the “unjust siege” and the “Caesar Act” sanctions imposed on Syria.
On the other hand, the regime’s media constantly monitors what it can convey to its audience about the crises experienced by the West in order to convey a message to the Syrians that citizens in EU countries, for example, are also suffering from economic crises.
Moreover, the Syrian regime’s media continues to report on human rights violations in Western countries, focusing on covering cases of arrests of journalists and restrictions on press freedoms in Turkey, ignoring hundreds of violations the regime has committed against the media since 2011.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February, and the subsequent imposition of reciprocal sanctions between Russia and the West, constituted a fertile ground for the official Syrian media to catch the news that the economies of EU countries were affected by the war on Ukraine.
Al-Baath newspaper: Britons facing hunger
On 1 May, al-Baath newspaper carried a report titled “The New York Times: Britons Facing Hunger and Cold Due to High Prices,” in which it sheds light on the problems the British are facing, unseen since 1956, as a result of the sharp rise in fuel prices, inflation, and low family income.
The report quoted by al-Baath says that many people have already reduced spending and are forced to review their families’ budgets again, refrain from a number of foodstuffs, and in extreme cases, even temporarily cut off electricity and gas.
This comes at a time when Syrians in regime-controlled areas are living in deteriorating economic conditions as a result of the depreciation of the Syrian pound against the US dollar and the rise in prices, in general, to record levels, in addition to a severe shortage of energy resources such as electricity, gas, and fuel oil, in addition to the spread of unemployment.
On 25 February, Joyce Msuya, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, stated that Syria now ranks first among the ten most food-insecure countries in the world, with 12 million people suffering from limited or uncertain access to food.
The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator of UNOCHA added that the Syrian economy is deteriorating further, food prices continue to rise, and people are suffering from hunger, so the cost of feeding a family of five people with only basic necessities has nearly doubled during 2021.
She mentioned that Syrian families spend, on average, 50 percent more than they earn, which means borrowing money in order to manage their affairs, and this has led to “unbearable choices,” according to the UN official.
Al-Thawra: Crises exhaust Americans
On 24 April, the government newspaper al-Thawra commented on a Fox News report in which it said that the American Psychological Association had conducted a survey that concluded that the psychological state of 75 percent of Americans had reached a critical point.
The report included information that the survey results showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed feel exhausted and psychologically stressed due to an endless series of crises.
The report, on which al-Thawra focused, also said that Americans are suffering from increasing psychological pressure, while mental health insurance services are not available to all of them.
The newspaper stated that, according to a report published by the American network CNBC, the number of American adults suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression for several years rose to 42 percent after a harsh and stormy year for Americans, filled with psychological suffering, which is the year 2021, which witnessed the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the report, every one in five Americans suffers from mental health problems, noting that the costs of mental care in the US are so high that many Americans may be reluctant to even consider receiving it in case patients do not have insurance coverage.
Two weeks before the al-Thawra newspaper reported this report, the Director of the General Authority for Forensic Medicine, Zaher Hajjo, had announced the registration of 45 suicide cases in the regime-held areas since the beginning of this year.
Hajjo told the local newspaper, al-Watan, on 12 April that 37 of those who committed suicide were males, and eight were females, adding that most of the cases were of people between the ages of 40 and 50 years.
Hajjo pointed out that the oldest of these people is a 73-year-old man, while the youngest is a 13-year-old child.
Of the total number of suicide cases, 27 were recorded by hanging, 13 by shooting, three by falling from a high place, and two by taking poison, according to Hajjo.
Inflation and detainees in Turkey: SANA
The state-run news agency (SANA) reported on 10 April that the Turkish authorities had acknowledged that the number of detainees and convicts in Turkey had reached 314,000, a “number that the country’s history has not witnessed before,” according to the agency.
SANA usually focuses on publishing news about high inflation rates in Turkey. On 3 March, the agency reported that inflation in Turkey reached its highest rate in February in two decades on an annual basis.
The official agency pointed out that one of the reasons for the high inflation rates in Turkey is the weak value of the Turkish currency and the decisions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to reduce interest rates.
Syrian regime adopts generalization approach
Samir Matar, the head of the Syrian Journalists Association (SJA), said that “the policy of misleading citizens that the Syrian regime has followed and is following is a systematic media policy that is directly monitored by security officers.”
In an interview with Enab Baladi, Matar added that “the Syrian regime, through its media, has often succeeded in diluting the facts and changing the image of reality by publishing carefully selected photos and news.”
“The Syrian regime’s success in this is also due to its adoption of a generalization approach, and this applies to the rise in prices in European countries and the world in general, due to the Russian war on Ukraine,” Matar said.
He added, “The rise in prices has actually occurred, and there is inflation, for example, in Germany, but the inflation rate is not comparable to the inflation that occurred in Syria as a result of the security policy there. The inflation rate reached 7 percent in Germany last March, while inflation in Syria is ten times higher.”
Matar explained that “there is a specific audience that hears the regime’s fake news, and it wants to hear it because denying the news of the regime constitutes a challenge to this audience and requires a change in its attitude towards what is happening on the Syrian soil of criminality, and this is what many of its supportive or silent audiences avoid.
“The truth-seeker usually seeks to know the authenticity and credibility of a piece of news in several sources to verify it, and specialists say that many do not search for multiple sources for a single piece of news, and this is common in all countries of the world, and many Syrians are not accustomed to it, because of the policy of the one-party and one media domination. In Syria, the official media is the only source of news, which is dangerous, and we see its results clearly,” Matar points out.
The head of the SJA stressed that “the Syrian regime, as well as the media professionals who promote its news, bear the responsibility to mislead people because the citizen has the right to obtain information from an independent body and not affiliated with a regime accused of committing tens of thousands of crimes.”
Syria rose two places in the Press Freedom Index for the year 2022 of the Reporters Without Borders organization, according to the report issued on 3 May.
Syria ranked 171 on the organization’s index of 180 countries, advancing two places from the 2021 ranking.
In its report, Reporters Without Borders confirmed that the official Syrian press, represented by radio, television, and print media, broadcasts government propaganda, relying on the official news agency (SANA), which makes social media platforms, most notably Facebook, the main tool for disseminating information among people amid their mistrust of the government press.
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