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CNN rejects as 'ridiculous' Syrian claims it collaborated with 'terrorists'

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 25, 2012 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
A photo from the Syrian opposition Local Coordination Committee is said to show a bombed oil pipeline in Homs, Feb. 15, 2012.
A photo from the Syrian opposition Local Coordination Committee is said to show a bombed oil pipeline in Homs, Feb. 15, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Syrian media claim journalists helped blow up oil pipeline in Homs
  • CNN executive decries "ridiculous" allegations
  • Media also carry claim that U.S. outlets are working with al Qaeda

Editor's note: Read this story in Arabic.

(CNN) -- Syria, which has long accused Arab and Western satellite news networks for fabricating and falsifying events, now has CNN in its sights.

State-run Syrian media asserted Thursday that CNN journalists were involved in blowing up an oil pipeline in Homs province, collaborating with "saboteurs."

The allegations surfaced when Syrian state TV aired portions of the CNN documentary "72 Hours Under Fire," about the challenges faced by a CNN team while on assignment in Homs.

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Rafiq Lutf, described as a member of the Arab Journalists Union in America, asked on the program: "Who is behind the attack? It is one particular group. Who is this group? Let (CNN) answer this question. It's one of two things. It is either that they are the perpetrators. ... But I guarantee to you that they are the accomplices."

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The anchor talking with Lutf spoke of "conclusive evidence of the involvement of CNN and the American journalists who were present there in the detonation of the oil pipelines in Homs."

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Syria's state news agency SANA picked up the theme Friday, writing that the footage "revealed that the camera operators were CNN correspondents who entered Syria illegally through the Lebanese borders and seemed to have coordinated with the saboteurs to film a video of the attack and send it to their channel."

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SANA also reported that CNN claimed the "Syrian army was behind the attack to deflect suspicion of any coordination, if not to say involvement, with the terrorist saboteurs."

Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International, called the assertions "ridiculous."

"We stand firmly behind our excellent reporting on Syria," he said. "It is a pity that its citizens did not get to see this important documentary without these ridiculous interventions."

Among other allegations made on the program, Lutf asked whether American media outlets were working with al Qaeda, which he linked to the Free Syrian Army resistance.

"Why are they now working with al Qaeda?" he asks. "I lived in America for 16 years, and I know the Americans are good people."

There have been other unlikely claims by Syrian state media against what they see as international conspiracies against the regime.

A state TV anchor said Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language news network, "depended on armed individuals, the terrorists as correspondents."

Syrian networks devote hours every day to projecting the government's message and discrediting any version of events that differs from the regime's.

Syria has been cracking down on anti-regime protesters for more than a year, and during that time, Syria has blocked unhindered access to international journalists. As a result, it is nearly impossible to confirm events there independently.

The government has consistently blamed the violence in the country on terrorist groups, but activists say the government security forces and their militia allies have instigated attacks against civilians.

CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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