All was fair in the Syrian war. All tools were used by the Syrian regime, military, political, psychological, economy, food, and of course media. The media war was vicious like many battles.
During the first months of the Syrian peaceful protests in 2011, the Syrian anti-war activists used social media to deliver their voice to the world. In the first months, the strategy of the Syrian regime was a defensive strategy as the country was new in venturing through cyberspace, this is because many new media platforms were banned by the regime like Facebook, Youtube, blogs, Twitter and many others. A controversial blog might lead someone to jail, sometimes for life. But technology found its way. Syria was a hub for broken license softwares and proxy bypassing. The activists always found a way to break ban barriers and send their voices to the world. The ban proved to be futile, and the regime saw what happened in other Arab countries that went through massive protests like Egypt. Preventing connectivity only weakened the credibility of other regimes and made the world furious because no news came out from inside a troubled country. The Syrian regime thought to preserve the connectivity and work on stirring confusion. To fight with the same tools, starting from planting agents between activists, to claim songs and logos of freedom and dignity made by the rebels as its own, to falsify images and footages, pay different journalists from around the world (a document leaked stating payments for several south Asian journalists), and not ending with paying international PR companies and hiring supporters from around the globe to keep an eye on all media, to comment and communicate with media on all levels. One group of hackers support Assad regime called itself: The Syrian Electronic Army, which was specialized in hacking activists’ internet accounts to take all information, contacts and names. Also hacking national and international websites that do not agree with the regime’s brutal choices. Let alone the disturbance stirred in online media by Syrian regime’s close allies like Russia, China and Iran.
The strategy taken by the Syrian regime focused on stripping his opponents from any value and present to the world as the “others,” the enemies that forces of the world should unite against it, in an attempt to seek legitimacy from the outside and not from the votes of the Syrian nation.
There are three kinds of audiences that were targeted by Assad media. The first audience was inside the country from Assad supporters, minorities (which I am part of), and the greys. This audience was told that there is a universal conspiracy (literally) taking place against Syria, as the regime always identified itself as Syria, and Syria is the regime. Our best efforts to explain that a homeland is bigger than a family inheriting an entire country, went in vain. We were divided and domesticated for many years. Since 1st grade we always studied a book called “Arab Nationalism” that contained all the so called “achievements” of the Assad senior, followed by the junior. The enemy was always who the regime told us is, and this time it was the people.
The second audience is regional, mainly the Middle East. Most of the regional audiences consist of the majority of parties like Arab nationalists, old communists and many from the Left. The regime always presented itself to its Arab audience as the “Castle of Resistance and Objection” to the foreign and Israeli dictation. Although Assad regime assassinated most of the Palestinian movements to keep all the cards in its hands. The Syrian regime was keen to situate itself as the main player in the Middle East.
The third audience is the World. Terrorism was used to obtain legitimacy from the international community. There are many question marks on the extremist groups in Syria and their relationship with the Syrian regime. Although the number of these groups is small and they have no place in the Syrian society, but they get a lot of attention, and their role is hugely magnified in media. Hundreds of horrifying videos of extreme human rights violations by regime forces including large scale massacres were and still ignored by media, but any act by these terrorists goes viral. These extremists arrest Syrian activists and civil society leaders who are wanted by the Syrian regime, and sometimes surrender them to it. They do Assad a favor by terrorizing the world, putting it in front of two options: Either me or terrorism, with disregard of what Syrians demand. I believe that when Assad goes, they go.
Moreover, the Syrian regime does hire international PR companies (with Syrians money) to improve its image, and will not hesitate to pay or promise any journalist great rewards if he/she speaks positively in its name. This is done along with its allies in the region and in the world. There is always paid someone around the world watching, commenting, communicating, and writing in favor of the Syrian ruling junta.
All the speeches mentioned previously intersect most of the time, and I believe you heard part or all of these speeches. The Syrian regime played on contradictions very well, but those who know how life in Syria was in the past 4 decades, how people were brutally treated and dehumanized, will have no doubt about the just cause of those who are fighting for their liberty in Syria. The situation must be resolved as soon as possible, as we saw how time is costing Syrians more lives, homes, and dignity.