To The ABC

Dear Media Watch team,
I would like to draw your attention to Paul McGeough’s response to the Houla massacre in Syria (25/26 May 2012)  in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. As Mr McGeough is a highly regarded senior foreign correspondent with Fairfax with a lot of experience reporting from the Middle East, I believe it has been very influential in determining the level of debate and discussion on Syria in Australia in recent weeks.
On Monday 28 May, just two days after the massacre, before there had been a chance to investigate who was responsible, Mr McGeough declared that the ‘regime’ did it, while In Syria, the UN observer head, Major-General Mood, was still busy studying the facts on the ground to determine who was culpable.
The Age highlighted Mr McGeough’s article on its front page, making it very clear to readers that it held the Syrian regime responsible.  Except for a very short report in the Sunday Age (and Sunday SMH, I assume), the Monday 28th article is the first reporting of the massacre in The Age or The SMH.  Although Mr McGeough’s article has ANALYSIS written above the article, the first paragraph serves as a news item; except for Mr McGeough’s article, there was no other reporting of Houla in The Age that day. Also, Mr McGeough’s article was in the news item section of the paper, not in the opinion section.

Global outrage over Syrian child massacre

May 28, 2012 Paul McGeough 

AS A WAVE of revulsion sweeps the world after a regime massacre in Syria – 32 children, some with what appear to be bullet holes in their temples, are among more than 90 dead – Washington is manoeuvring to win Moscow’s support for a plan to dislodge the embattled Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

As many as 300 others were wounded in the bloodletting when regime forces backed by local volunteers attacked Houla, a rebel-held Sunni village near the troubled city of Homs.

It is fair to assume Mr McGeough’s pronouncement that the regime was responsible for the massacre would have led to bias in the selection of articles sourced on Syria by editors. It is also noted that the editorial in The Agewhich was a response to the Houla massacre was just as unequivocal as Mr McGeough in placing the blame.
An alternative, more balanced, and cautious response to the massacre can be found in The Chicago Tribune, 27 May 2012.
In the weeks following the massacre, there has been a chance for investigations. There is a weight of evidence which points to the ‘rebel’ forces being responsible for the Houla massacre.  This conclusion was even presented to the US Congress by Republican Congressman Ron Paul on 19 June 2012.

In the National Review Online, John Rosenthal presents a credible summary of the evidence and arguments presented supporting the view that anti-government rebels were responsible for Houla. In a second article he responds to critics. (Links to both articles below.)  John Rosenthal’s response to critics of his first article on the Houla massacre
Below are the links to the video and the transcript of Republican Congressman Ron Paul’s recent speech.  Note he says, “Falsely blaming the Assad government for a so-called massacre perpetrated by a violent warring rebel faction is nothing more than war propaganda.” Ron Paul speaking in US Congress on 19/6/12
There was political action against the Syrian government the week of Mr McGeough’s report. The two top Syrian diplomats in Canberra were expelled by our government. This was the beginning of a wave of similar expulsions of Syrian diplomats in many other countries. When the world should be working very hard for a peaceful political solution to the crisis in Syria, it is increasingly turning to a military one based on false assumptions and bad reporting.
Susan Dirgham

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