by Eva Bartlett
Last Friday, December 9, just as the liberation of East Aleppo was taking place on the ground, the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations held a press conference at which Eva Bartlett, Canadian journalist well known for her first-hand reporting about the proxy war in Syria, presented an outstanding analysis of the deliberate disinformation and propaganda campaign the Western mainstream media have carried out since 2011, part of their countries’ regime-change agenda in Syria. Following her appearance at the UN, widely publicized across social media, Bartlett was contacted for an email interview by Buzzfeed’s Ishmael N. Daro. We are posting here the full text of Eva Bartlett’s response, followed by the full text of Daro’s email to her.
Hello. You have a number of facts wrong. I will spell them out.
— [The] Press Conference was only meant to be a report back by myself and the others on the panel. Yes, Ambassador al-Ja’afari was originally going to be present but solely to introduce me. Due to the meeting in the GA that morning, he apologized to me that he could not be present.
— I was not speaking at the UN at the behest of the Syrian government but rather at my own request to present some of my findings, and also via the organizing of the US Hands Off Syria coalition. Your question is clearly meant to imply that I am a mouthpiece for the Syrian government and that is indeed poor journalism on your part.
You are extremely wrong here, and I quote: “You wrote on your blog that your trip to Syria in November was organized by a member of the Syrian parliament. Was your trip paid for by the Syrian government, or did you pay your own air fare, accommodations, and other expenses? ”
No, I wrote on my blog that the November 2-5 trip to Aleppo was organized (for the other foreign journalists of the NY Times, BBC, LA Times and others) by the Aleppo MP. No, my trip was NOT paid for by the Syrian government. I applied for and paid for my visa and my own travel expenses and accommodations. The SOLE exception is that for the November 2-5 trip with the other foreign journalists the bus was provided, thus none of us paid for transportation on that short trip. On prior and subsequent trips, I paid for transportation, accommodation, travel.
Your question: “Do you believe you were able to gain an unvarnished look at the country, or do you believe there were efforts by the Syrian government to present a specific narrative?”
I requested to go to Aleppo and to specific areas of Aleppo. I requested to go to other areas of Syria (Homs many times, Latakia, Jableh, Tartous, Yarmouk, Masyaf, Sweida, Maaloula, Palmyra); these requests were fulfilled. I had genuine one-to-one encounters with Syrians in Aleppo, and everywhere I travelled, on my own and without government representatives interpreting unless and when I asked for their assistance. I speak Arabic and spoke directly with the people I encountered, and at other times had a translator not provided by the government with me. The “narrative” I saw and presented is that of the Syrian people in Aleppo.
Your question: “You made a few claims in your exchange with the other journalist that might strike people as odd. For example, you said nobody in Eastern Aleppo had heard of the White Helmets. Can you elaborate?”
None of the IDPs I met at a shelter in greater Aleppo had heard of the White Helmets, although they had family members who were at the time (early November) trapped in eastern areas by the terrorists and who were complaining to the people I spoke with that terrorists were hoarding food and not allowing them access to medical care. They had not heard of the White Helmets, nor had IDPs I met who had recently escaped from al-Helloq, eastern Aleppo. Nor had any doctors I spoke with in Aleppo. Nor had any citizens I spoke with in Aleppo (who likewise had family members in those eastern areas). More recently, since the December 9 Press Conference, Aleppo has been nearly completely secured. Testimonies from countless civilians who were saved from the terrorists inhabiting those areas show that they also had not heard of the so-called infamous White Helmets.
For more recent on the ground updates on this, I suggest you read the writing of Vanessa Beeley, who just spent three days in liberated eastern areas talking with evacuees.
“During my time in Hanano East #Aleppo I spoke with many civilians who had been liberated from their four year imprisonment by NATO and Gulf state terrorist brigades. I asked them all if they knew of the #WhiteHelmets. All of them looked puzzled and most of them replied that no they did not know them at all.
Some said they knew of the workers who called themselves “civil defense” and worked with the terrorists. I asked if they also helped civilians; one man only said that yes sometimes they did help him and his family.
I interviewed the Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers who were on the scene in Hanano. They had never come across the White Helmets in all the time they had been working in East Aleppo since the area was invaded and occupied in 2012.”
Your question: “You also said the will of the Syrian people could be gauged by the results of the 2014 elections. It’s my understanding that voting only took place in government-controlled areas, and no credible election observers supported its outcome. Do you stand by your statement?”
In fact, I never inserted the word “only”. I said this was a great indicator. I also mentioned that Syrian civilians in government secured areas braved torrents of bombs fired by terrorist factions on voting day, and that I had experienced going with throngs of Syrians in Lebanon walking to the embassy to vote, of their free will. You might be interested to note also that Syrians from around the world flew to Damascus airport solely to vote as embassies in the countries they were residing in had been closed by those governments.
To your last question, my comments are mine alone, based on extensive travels throughout Syria, spending months in the country and having countless one-on-one interactions with Syrians. The views I expressed are mine and also reflect the views on these Syrians I met.
Regarding propaganda, please see that of the UN, including how it distorts truth and silences the Syrian voices:
I don’t expect that you will appreciate this as the tone of your questions reflects your own alignment, which seems to be with that of the media, which is determined to obfuscate the truth on Syria and instead promote war propaganda. Let’s say that I will be pleasantly surprised if you prove me wrong.
I would add, since you asked, that you can find my writings here:
Blog postings from Syria and from Lebanon where I’ve spent roughly half a year collectively in between visits to Syria or while waiting for visas to be granted:
And can find many video clips with Syrians here:
Ishmael Daro’s email in full follows:
From: Ishmael Daro <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: December 15, 2016 3:24 PM
Subject: Viral video of your comments at the UN
Hello Ms. Bartlett,
I’m a reporter with BuzzFeed News, based in Toronto.
I’m writing about the video of your comments at the UN that has gone viral in the last few days. I just wanted to ask you a few questions, for a story on our website.
The Norwegian journalist you addressed told me that reporters were led to believe they would hear comments from the Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari. However, he was not present. Were you speaking at the UN at the behest of the Syrian government? How did you come to be at that press conference?
You wrote on your blog that your trip to Syria in November was organized by a member of the Syrian parliament.
Was your trip paid for by the Syrian government, or did you pay your own air fare, accommodations, and other expenses?
Do you believe you were able to gain an unvarnished look at the country, or do you believe there were efforts by the Syrian government to present a specific narrative?
You made a few claims in your exchange with the other journalist that might strike people as odd. For example, you said nobody in Eastern Aleppo had heard of the White Helmets. Can you elaborate?
You also said the will of the Syrian people could be gauged by the results of the 2014 elections. It’s my understanding that voting only took place in government-controlled areas, and no credible election observers supported its outcome. Do you stand by your statement?
Last question: Even if this was not your intent, your comments at the press conference appear to track with Russian and Syrian government messaging. Do you have any concern about seemingly aligning yourself with those governments? How do you respond to concerns that your video is serving as propaganda for Russia and Syria?
If there’s anything else you’d like to add, please feel free to include it. Thanks.”
Ishmael N. Daro
Social News Editor