Information Sources

Views among respondents are as sharply split regarding Syria’s media landscape as they are on many other issues, with regime supporters preferring pro-government outlets and opposition supporters watching those that are free from regime influence. Neither trusts outlets from the other side, and fewer seem to even follow media from both sides than we had found last year. Fewer also mentioned relying on non-Arab world sources, like BBC-Arabic, France 24, CNN, and SkyNews.

Television Remains Most Important
Source of Information

Regime supporters and opponents alike continue to depend on television for most of their news, albeit different channels.

Regime opponents tend to tune into satellite stations based abroad, such as Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera.

Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya mostly. These channels are international and they broadcast the situation in Syria for the entire world, and also because they are sympathetic with the wounded, Syrian people. Not like other channels, which are sell-outs and foreign agents.
— Sunni man (anti-regime), 40, Deir al-Zor

Mostly television, and especially the channels of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya; I trust the newscasts they broadcast because we would check with our relatives there, and the news would turn out to be true.
— Sunni woman (anti-regime), 25, refugee, Jordan

One anti-regime respondent from Deir el Zor said he watches the Deir-el-Zor TV channel. An anti-regime respondent in Raqqah said he watches Al-Ghad, Shamuna, and the Free Syrian Army channel. Fewer respondents seemed to report watching these channels than last year.  Deir-el-Zor, Al Ghad, Shamuna, and FSA TV are pro-revolution satellite stations, also available online.

Regime supporters look to Al-Mayadeen, Al-Dunya, and Al-Ekhbareyya as well as other non-satellite Syrian state channels. Al-Mayadeen is a satellite channel based in Beirut, al-Dunya is a private satellite station in Damascus, and Al-Ekhbareyya is a terrestrial Syrian state broadcaster.

Mostly from television, through news channels and daily newscasts, and from my family and relatives. I usually watch Al-Mayadeen. I sometimes watch the Syrian channel and Al-Ekhbareyya. I can watch the news with video and audio, 24/7.
— Alawi woman (pro-regime), 55, Damascus

I usually watch Al-Mayadeen channel, sometimes the Syrian channel, Syria News and Dunya channel.
— Alawi man (pro-regime), 44, Damascus

Respondents on both sides tend to avoid sources that promote the other side’s point of view, a change from last year where some respondents listened to both and tried to triangulate something close to the truth. Now, however, with the greater polarization prevailing, respondents seem to view the other side’s media as founts of lies.

[The Syrian state channels] are the reliable sources that convey the true reports to us before they have been tampered with by some opposing channels that work against the interests of the country and the well-being of our homeland. Most channels deviate and fabricate the news, and most of the time, they report full, false news that does not even exist in order to sabotage the situation and make it even worse.
— Kurdish man (pro-regime), 32, Al-Hasakah

The rest of the channels are either biased in their opinion or with the powerful, dominant side, which is actually the regime. But Al-Jazeera broadcasts the situation of the people and the injustice they suffer. They always stand by the people, the weakest link, so therefore it is the voice of the people.
— Sunni woman (anti-regime), 28, Aleppo

People on both sides also rely on word of mouth, especially friends and family networks, trusting the views of people they know on the ground more than media sources. Many said they rely on the mobile application WhatsApp to keep in touch with networks and get information.

I usually get the news in more than one way. Some reaches me through friends on WhatsApp. They convey the true news to me because the events are true and have happened either to them or to their friends. There is also room for discussion between us, and it is the fastest and the easiest way to communicate with each other in different areas.
— Kurdish man (pro-regime), 32, Al-Hasakah

Surely they (the trusted sources) are friends and relatives. I check up on them on the telephone and I know the events they have experienced. I do not watch TV because it does not broadcast correct news. But the correct news that I get is from my friends and family.
— Sunni woman (anti-regime), 39, Raqqah

Facebook, Local Sites are Important Sources

Many respondents, particularly on the anti-regime side, crave non-political information that is free from political interference and surveillance, and seek it on the Internet. Facebook received more mention in this regard than last year. Some opposition respondents said Facebook satisfies this demand. Pro-regime respondents also turn to Facebook, but did not make many mentions of specific pages.

I depend on the sources from the Internet; Facebook and free website pages that are run by normal, non-political individuals, because they are the sources that publish the news without any political surveillance. We all know that these days nobody can publish any piece of news without it being politically reviewed. To make my point clearer, most of the news we watch are just the parts politicians want us to know, not realistic or even really happening.
— Kurdish man (anti-regime), 28, Al-Hasakah

Facebook is a much vaster source, and is faster in delivering news. Mostly these pages: Ahrar Syria, the supporters of the Syrian revolution, and the Andan Rebel. — Sunni man (anti-regime), 32, Aleppo

Some refugees mentioned reading Facebook pages specifically hosted and run for them in Turkey.

Some pages fully cover the news in Syria at a very high speed compared to other sources. These pages are also very objective. Mostly these pages: Noqabaq Syria Al-Ahrar – The Turkey branch, which is a page for Syrian refugees in Turkey, and Itihad Al-Talaba Alsoryoon, and the Syrian Free Army page.
— Sunni man (anti-regime), 38, refugee, Turkey

[I rely on] Facebook pages because there are pages that post breaking news about our rebels and the damage caused by the barrel bombs to our civilian Syrian people. Mostly these pages: Syria 24 hours, Al-Ahrar Syrian Students group, Al-Sabeil Neighborhood News page, Masaken (houses) Al-Sabeil, and the Syrian Free Army page.
— Sunni woman (anti-regime), 23, refugee, Turkey

Both sides look at local Facebook pages and websites that provide information about specific areas.

[I trust] Hamah Awal be-Awal because it’s highly credible. It also allows people to write their opinion regarding the situation in Hamah and other cities in Syria. This page also publishes news on the coordination happening in Syria.
— Sunni man (anti-regime), 26, Hamah

Al-Hasakah, moment by moment because it is the first to report the true news.
— Kurdish man (pro-regime), 32, Al-Hasakah

One pro-regime man, 31, from Homs said he looks at pro-regime channels’ and stations’ websites for information. I find other sites better than Facebook, mostly the General Organization of Radio and Television site which is the official site of Syria channels. There is also the (Iranian) Al-Alam channel website.”

Few read papers or listen to the radio, as we found last year. “I sometimes flip some pages (of newspapers) but not always because other means have taken over. [As for the] radio, of course not, that was long time ago, now we need it less. The radio’s time is up,” said an anti-regime Sunni woman, 33, from Damascus.

Summary of Findings on Information Sources

The information war in Syria has evolved: those on both sides pay less attention to the other’s media, in line with the growing polarization of attitudes and opinions. The media used are the same – television, word of mouth, and Internet. Particularly on the anti-regime side, however, the Internet presence has further developed, with the emergence of specialized pages catering to the needs of refugees in different countries and residents or displaced people from specific areas. As is true with the other aspects of the Syrian conflict, the media scene has become more deeply divided and also more fragmented.

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