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Media 'inciting sectarian wars,' al-Assad adviser says

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 21, 2012 -- Updated 0053 GMT (0853 HKT)
U.N. observers photograph a bus bombed outside a Shiite holy shrine in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on June 14.
U.N. observers photograph a bus bombed outside a Shiite holy shrine in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on June 14.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An adviser to the Syrian president says reporters are "fabricating facts" about events
  • "There are many people who believe what has been put on the news," she says
  • Tens of satellite channels "made themselves part of the war on Syria"

(CNN) -- Syria's government has not only had to contend with terrorists, but also with journalists bent on misrepresenting the news, according to a political and media adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Inciting sectarian wars, fabricating facts about what's happening in our country," Bouthaina Shaaban told Russia Today, a government-supported television news channel, in an interview on Tuesday. "There are many people who believe what has been put on the news and it affects them very negatively. Unfortunately the media war, throughout history, could be very damaging and very effective."

Shaaban alluded to reports from international news organizations that the Syrian government has sharply limited access to the country by foreign journalists, citing those claims as examples of misinformation. "It is not true that we don't give access to foreign journalists," she said. "Hundreds of Russian journalists came, hundreds of foreign journalists from all over the world: from India, China, Europe, from the U.S., from all over the world -- so, it's not true that journalists are not given access to Syria. But, also there are tens, at least, of satellite channels who made themselves part of the war on Syria."

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With rare exceptions, CNN's repeated and continuing requests to travel and report freely inside Syria have been declined.

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Syrian government officials have routinely said that terrorist groups and not government military forces are to blame for much of the violence that has wracked the country since March 2011. Asked to identify the countries that have been arming these terrorist groups, Shaaban refused to answer the question. "The Syrian government is not the issue, the issue is Syria, that is the issue, because when you have people from our army, people from our police, civilian people, women and children, killed by tens every day, when you have our factories burned and attacked, when you have our schools targeted, when you have our roads being obstructed by terrorists, then you are having a problem for the country and for the Syrian people.

"The issue is not the Syrian government, the issue is the unity and safety and sovereignty and prosperity of Syria."

Pressed to identify the groups, she said, "We do not know who these people are, we do not know to whom they belong. There is not a single leadership. I mean you can ask the U.N. forces and they would say to you this is the most difficult problem in Syria, that you don't know who your adversary is."

Shaaban reiterated a comment made by other Syrian officials, that Damascus still holds hope that the peace plan put forth by Arab League-U.N. Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan will succeed. Observers have accused government forces of flouting it.

"It is in our national interest to cooperate with the Kofi Annan plan because the first item in the Kofi Annan plan is to put an end to violence from all sides and in all its forms," she said.

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