Syrian show suspended for saying Russia and Iran 'control regime areas'

Syrian show suspended for saying Russia and Iran 'control regime areas'
A slip up has cost a number of people their jobs at state-run Syrian media outlets over an article read live on air.
3 min read
14 July, 2023
Russia maintains a military presence in Syria, where it has backed the regime [Getty/archive]

A sports programme was taken off-air in Syria after one episode mentioned regime-held areas being controlled by Russia and Iran.

The General Organisation for Radio and Television in Syria said in a statement Thursday that is suspended the show called "Captain" on Syrian Drama TV until investigations are concluded.

It pledged that those responsible for "the error" would be punished.

The episode, aired on Wednesday, shows the programme’s host, Muhammad Al-Khatib, reading an excerpt from a newspaper article talking about the Syrian regime’s plans to lease the Damascus International Airport to private companies.

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The article from the regime-run Al-Baath newspaper mentions how many in Syria have questioned the identity of those wishing to privately invest in the airport, "in light of Iranian and Russian control over government areas".

Al-Khatib realises what is written and is seem mumbling that line rather than reading it aloud.

He briefly appears lost for words, before looking at the camera - seemingly talking to the producers - adding: "The news you’ve put up is wrong, there is something wrong at the bottom [of the article]."

The clip was widely shared on social media.

Translation: "Telling the truth in Syria, even if by mistake, may cost its owner death under Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Not him alone, but it may affect his family and companions, and perhaps his ex-fiancée or ex-wife."

The directors of Syria TV, Syrian News Channel, and the informatics manager at the radio and TV authority were all reportedly replaced as a result of the apparent slip-up, according to pro-regime newspaper Tishreen.

It was not clear whether the article was deliberately kept unedited. Syrian media is tightly controlled by the regime, so social media users were left confused over the so-called error.

Syria’s regime plans at putting the capital’s airport up for investment through private entities, Al-Baath newspaper revealed this month. Syrian economists have warned against the move without reforms and a clear economic strategy.

Russia and Iran have backed Bashar al-Assad’s forces in his country’s brutal 12-year war, where more than half a million have died and millions more displaced.

Iran has sent thousands of militia fighters to support the besieged regime on the ground, following losses to rebels early on in the uprising. Following other military setbacks for the regime, Russia intervened with air support in September 2015, bombing opposition areas and helping Bashar Al-Assad's forces win back key territory in the south and north.

Iranian-backed militias and proxies have also been killed by Israeli airstrikes throughout the conflict, including at the Damascus airport which has been shut down several times because of Israeli raids.

Iran and Russia both maintain strong military and economic interests in Syria as a result of their support for the regime, including Moscow's control of the Hmeimmim and Tartous bases on the coast.