Following a statement from the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) and significant criticism from analysts, journalists, and individuals both inside and outside of Idlib, Al-Monitor has retracted an article originally published on August 27. This article had negatively portrayed the residents, governing bodies in Idlib, and several revolutionary military groups.
In a statement released on Friday, the editorial staff of the online publication stated, “Al-Monitor has retracted the article titled ‘Women recount harrowing experiences in Syria’s trafficking networks’ authored by freelance contributor Essam Sabry Hafez, published on Aug. 27, 2023.” They added that they could not “verify the accuracy of certain elements in the story” and expressed “regret” for any “confusion” caused by the unfounded claims presented in the article. They also assured readers that the article had been removed from all “databases and social media platforms.”
While the retraction and removal were necessary steps, this incident highlights a broader, unaddressed issue: a trend of neglecting journalistic standards and principles when reporting on the Syrian revolution and the liberated northern territories. This concern was echoed by Syrian journalist Fared Al Mahlool in an article for the online magazine Hurriya.
Mahlool pointed out that “a closer examination of Al-Monitor’s claimed impartiality reveals a troubling bias, particularly in their coverage of the ongoing Syrian revolution. This concerning trend is intensified by the fact that many of these articles are written by journalists affiliated with pro-Assad, pro-Hezbollah media outlets.”
These observations are not new. A 2013 article by Lee Smith drew similar conclusions, stating that “the views of the Assad government are prominently featured in the site’s ‘Lebanon Pulse’ section. This section often emphasizes translated material from pro-Hezbollah, pro-Assad media sources, as well as original content produced for Al-Monitor by writers who also contribute to pro-Hezbollah, pro-Assad media.”
While such retractions are a step in the right direction, the readiness to publish “articles” and “reports” based on hearsay and without thorough investigation, as demonstrated by both Al-Monitor and Al-Hadth, is indicative of a “recurring pattern,” according to Mahlool. He states, “The reputation of Syria’s Idlib province is consistently tarnished, often by relying on questionable eyewitness accounts, which might even be fabricated by the authors themselves.”