Protests in Homs, Syria

Protests in Homs, Syria

Credit: by FreedomHouse on Flickr. Some rights reserved
Wadah Khanfar, the former director general of Al Jazeera Wadar, warned news outlets today about embracing "the narrative of the government" as he accused international society of failing to "address the issue of Syria".

Delivering a keynote speech to the News World Summit Khanfar spoke about the challenges faced by news outlets early on, who could not get into the country to find out what was happening on the ground for themselves.

"When the revolution started, we did not have access to the field," he said, and many journalists unable to get their own cameras on the ground were instead following the footage emerging on social media networks and accounts from activists.

He said news outlets were "reluctant at the beginning", due to concerns about not being able to independently authenticate the images.

And he said he had observed that where journalists do not have the ability to access international conflict for themselves, at times some can "tend to follow what the spokespeople of our government or army is telling us".

But he urged journalists to ensure they question international policies and their own government's stance on Syria.

He also added that it was later found that in 99 per cent of cases the footage being shared on social media about Syria was found to be accurate.

There was "no doubt of the authenticity" he said, adding that while there may have been issues about accuracy, such as the number of deaths being reported, there was "no doubt the "general features of the story were true and describing the core issues".

CNN's Beirut correspondent Arwa Damon, who was in Syria for three days in February, spoke to Journalism.co.uk about reporting on Syria earlier this month.

She described the story as "one of the most frustrating, difficult and challenging stories to cover, because of the sheer volume of challenges you face just in trying to get to the story".

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