New Syria newspaper fights 'lies of war'

2013-01-11 09:06
A Syrian man reads a newspaper outside a shop at a market. (Joseph Eid, AFP)

A Syrian man reads a newspaper outside a shop at a market. (Joseph Eid, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Aleppo - Truth is said to be the first casualty of war, but Khaled al-Khatib and a small group of journalists running a new newspaper in Syria's rebel-held territories are determined to keep the patient alive.

Suria Al-Hurra (Syria the Free), their month-old weekly, is seeking to become an important source of information for what goes on in the war-torn country - refusing to bend the facts, no matter the pressure to do so.

"We are nobody's mouthpiece; we are journalists," Khatib, the 30-year-old chief editor and former Aleppo University geography professor, defiantly tells AFP.

"We will never publish anything we're not 100% certain is true. Many times people try to manipulate us."

Such adherence to normal journalistic standards is risky in a country that, before its March 2011 uprising erupted, harboured a tame press that obediently vaunted the merits of now-beleaguered President Bashar Assad.

Regime elements - notably Assad's fiercely loyal shabiha militia - take exception to Suria Al-Hurra's aims. So do some rebels, who want to see the paper act as a propaganda tool in their struggle.


"So far no one has turned up in the newsroom trying to intimidate or kidnap us," Khatib says.

"But on our Facebook page [in Arabic] there was a shabiha who said that if he found us one day he would break our feet and our hands and then kill us."

The danger is real enough that Khatib doesn't want to broadcast the location of the office from which he and five reporters work in a village in northern Aleppo province.

Even with the rebels, who know the location, relations are not always smooth.

"There are some leaders of different katibas [rebel fighting units] that have come to us to say they don't want to deal with us because in our paper we criticised some errors they made in the FSA [Free Syrian Army]," the editor says.

The office is a modest one, located in an old post office. A heater sits in the middle of a carpet-covered floor to stave off the freezing winter air. There are a few portable computers and a filing cabinet.


And there is a caricature of Assad, dressed as a super hero who is vainly trying to stop a Syria-shaped boot from squashing him flat.

Suria Al-Hurra publishes all sorts of news and features - from what is happening on the battlefield, in local communities and the byzantine world of revolutionary politics to information on how the outside world is reacting to what is happening in Syria, including translations from the foreign press.

Wealthy Syrian donors, mostly ones who have fled to neighbouring Turkey and other countries, provide the funds supporting the newspaper: $2 000 for each weekly run of 6 000 copies printed in Turkey, which are distributed for free every Thursday or Friday in rebel-held areas around Syria.

Some rebel fighters even come to the office to collect the newspaper to hand out in their bases.

Khatib estimates that 10 people read each copy, giving "a circulation of 60 000".

While it is too early to say what impact the publication is having in a nation where lies, propaganda, omissions, partisan bias and errors dog every event, Suria Al-Hurra's news crew is determined to bring an exacting scrutiny to the news they cover.

As well as the six working in the office, the paper relies on five other correspondents in Aleppo province.

"Usually they send in items by Internet. Sometimes they come to the newsroom to work from here, which is the ideal. But for security they can't always do that," Khatib says.

Beyond professional ambition

All the journalists are aged between 25 and 30.

Khatib says he and his colleagues started by handing out anti-regime pamphlets to university students and organising protests before using their own money to launch their first issue that came out on 7 December.

"There came a moment when we became tired of reading information on the internet about the revolution without knowing if it was true," he says.

"So we thought we'd seek out the information ourselves... and, what's more, we wanted to denounce all the mistakes being made in this revolution so that a solution is found."

An example is a piece they ran denouncing people who were receiving free food aid and then selling it on the black market.

Their weekly goes beyond professional ambition. Khatib and his colleagues see it also as a symbol of the struggle for a democratic, open society that inspired the uprising against the ruling Assad family.

"We have already lived more than 30 years under the yoke of oppression," Khatib says. "It's now time to be free."


Read more on:    bashar assad  |  syria  |  media  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9790

Bold Design The BlackBerry Bold 9790 smartphone combines the iconic BlackBerry...

From R2979.00

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.