Three Syrian journalists from media controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus have defected to France. They told FRANCE 24 of the pressures they had been under and the feeling that they had been “accomplices to the regime.”
An editor at Syrian state broadcaster Radio Damascus has told FRANCE 24 how he fled the country with two colleagues because of the huge pressure he was under to “distort the truth.”
In a rare interview with a defected Syrian journalist, Kamal Jamal Bik explained how the Damascus regime and his managers suspected anyone who looked at external sources as being an opponent of the regime.
He also said that the atmosphere of suspicion was compounded by a total lack of balance in the way he and his colleagues were allowed to report the news.
“We were only allowed to use the official SANA news agency, and what reporters we had in the field were only with the state army,” he said. “We on the news desks were told to deform the news, to clean it up. There was constant pressure and censorship.”
Bik said that continuing to work at Radio Damascus had made him “an accomplice to the regime” and called on his colleagues he left behind not to believe claims by the regime that his defection was part of “a foreign agenda”.
"An ongoing revolution"
Deploring the lack of truth, Bik conceded that he had finally been forced to take a position in a conflict he said was “not a civil war, as is being reported, but an ongoing revolution against a tyrannical regime.”
“We can’t remain silent, we have to take a position, to take sides,” he said. “It is because of this that we had to leave Syria.”
Bik's colleague Lama al-Khadra repeated that their defections were “about taking a side” and that she would rather be “announcing the victory of the revolution on Syrian radio than announcing our defection from a foreign country.”
“From the beginning of the uprising, all our radio broadcasts made us feel like we were killing the Syrian people with our words,” she said. “It was like committing suicide.”
Explaining why she had stayed so long at the radio station, she said: “We had the choice between carrying on with our jobs or going to prison, in the hope that we would find a solution and be given the opportunity to report the truth and to work differently. We were hoping in vain.”
Bik said he and his three colleagues had escaped Syria through Lebanon, where they were given immediate help and support by the French authorities.
Since the start of the uprising in March 2011, some 44,000 Syrians have been killed, and score of journalists have died or disappeared.