Syria: Too Much Information? Feb24

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Syria: Too Much Information?

Photo Credit: AP / Local Coordination Committees in Syria

For foreign journalists, the Arab Spring uprisings and their aftermaths have ranged from exhilaratingly accessible (Egypt), to mortally dangerous (Libya), to frustratingly off-limits (Syria).

Since Syria’s violent uprising began 11 months ago, the government has strictly limited journalist visas. The relatively few foreign journalists who have managed to enter Syria on a formal visa are required to report at all times in the presence of a government minder. Those denied access have had two choices. The first is to sneak across the border from Turkey, either on their own or with the help of the Free Syrian Army. That choice has proven fatal to two great foreign correspondents, Anthony Shadid of The New York Times, and Marie Colvin of The Sunday Times. Shadid died after an apparent asthma attack, possibly triggered by an allergy to the horses he was riding; Colvin, with the French photographer Remi Ochlik, died under shellfire in Homs on February 22.

The other choice for covering Syria is to report it from a distance, which is not easy. “It’s the hardest story I have ever covered,” says Deborah Amos, an NPR Middle East correspondent. She covered the first months of the uprising from Beirut using Skype, Twitter, and cell phone to reach contacts in Syria—an unsatisfactory substitute, she notes, for reporting on the ground. “You can’t feel it, you can’t smell it and you can’t see it,” she says.

But the problem is not what you might think, a lack of information. The problem is the volume of it, and the difficulty of sorting out what is true.

Read the full story on Columbia Journalism Review’s website.

Dalal Mawad is a student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She can be reached on Twitter (@dalalmawad).