Independent research has shown that Syrians define independent news as ‘unbiased’, ‘not favouring any side’, and ‘credible’. Syrian audiences expect media to deliver balanced reporting and additionally that the media should play a positive and constructive role in the society.
According to the Syrians interviewed in the study, independent, unbiased and credible reporting is particularly needed with regard to conflict resolution and accountability of the political actors. Syrian media professionals have a long way to come to fulfil the high expectations Syrians have: currently Syrians are very critical – and even negative – about the role played and the reporting by media organisations.
The research, carried out by two renowned international research agencies, is unique in its kind, unique as it was designed to obtain in-depth knowledge about Syrian audiences in seven different regions (including in government controlled area, opposition controlled area and views from the Syrian diaspora in Turkey). In addition to being interviewed, the research respondents were asked to answer statements after being exposed to actual journalistic products produced by Syrian and other media outlets with different visions and agendas.
The study substantiates the mission of Free Press Unlimited, who commissioned the research. This mission is to support emerging media organisations to become vital independent news sources for Syrian audiences. However, whilst the professionalism of these outlets is growing – which is reflected in the quality of the news that they publish – their audiences remain relatively small in size. Meanwhile, Syria is becoming increasingly ‘media dark’, as the growth of territorial control by the Assad government goes hand-in-hand with increasing media control. It is therefore critical that all independent Syrian media are supported to deliver quality content to audiences wherever they are located.
The research concludes that in order for Syrian independent media to stay independent and reach out to this potentially large untapped audience that has a need for independent and credible news, they need the support of donors and the development community.
‘Independent media help fighting polarisation’. Read here about the other study commissioned by Free Press Unlimited that highlights that emerging independent media organisations have become essential to present a more neutral narration of events in Syria.
Photo: Abdulmonam Eassa