Revealed: All the president's media tricks
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt.
Wednesday 08 February 2012
Bashar al-Assad was advised before appearing on American TV to admit to some policing "mistakes", but to argue that Wall Street protesters were also being "suppressed" by police beatings, and to exploit anti-Obama sentiment in the US.
A rare insight into the media strategy of the Assad regime's most ardent supporters is afforded by a series of tips for the dictator in one of hundreds of emails uncovered by the hackers' group Anonymous and published in the Israeli daily Haaretz.
The email was sent by Sheherazad Jaafari, a press attaché at the Syrian mission to the UN and gave advice ahead of the President's ABC interview with Barbara Walters in December. The interview was notable for Mr Assad's claim that "We don't kill our people... no government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person."
Ms Jaafari summarised with some candour US media reports of the regime's use of tanks and aeroplanes against the uprising in her memo to Luna Chebel, a former Al Jazeera journalist who now works in the Assad office: "They use the phrases 'The Syrian government is killing its own people... Security forces are criminal and bloody'."
She advised that Mr Assad should say: "Syria doesn't have a policy to torture people, unlike the USA, where there are courses and schools that specialise in teaching policemen and officers how to torture." She advised using the exposure of detainee treatment in Abu Ghraib in Iraq or execution by electric chair as examples of American brutality.
Saying that it was "hugely important" to stress that "mistakes were done in the beginning ... because we did not have a well-organised 'police force'", she added: "[The] American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are 'mistakes' done and now we are 'fixing it'. It's worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by policemen, police dogs and beatings."
She added: "It would be worth mentioning how your personality has been attacked and praised in the last decade according to the media. At one point H.E. [His Excellency, Mr Assad] was viewed as a hero and in other times H.E. was the 'bad guy'. Americans love these kinds of things, get convinced by it."
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