Monday, September 07, 2015

Media bias on Syria: Jamal Rifi’s case as a clear example

I was one of the people who thought that the recent change in rhetoric by authorities and media on the Syrian crisis, would bring a whole new breakthrough with the dealing of this crisis.

From the beginning of 2011 until late 2014, the authorities and media insisted that what was happening in Syria was a revolution. They also insisted the revolution was a peaceful one. The high death toll, which reached more than 200,000 was due to the Syrian army killing the peaceful protestors.

In mid 2014, we started to hear a bit about “terrorism” in Syria. We also started to hear about Australian terrorists taking part in the conflict. We also suddenly discovered that the Australians who died there were in fact terrorists, and not aid workers. But the coverage of such episodes are still today shallow and naive.

The media until now did not go deep to investigate the reality of what happened in Syria. Though admitting that we have the highest radicalisation in modern Australian history, they still did not bother to investigate how this high radicalisation happened. The media acknowledged the extensive brainwashing and recruiting drive among our youths, however has never pointed the fingers on who was or still is responsible.

Not only the media has never investigated the origins of radicalisation in Australia, they went even further. They have and continue to portray the very same individuals who recruited and radicalised young Australians, as pillars of the community who are contributing to peace and harmony.

In this series of articles I will shed light on some cases where individuals or organisations who were active in brainwashing and recruiting, suddenly became the champions of de-radicalisation.

Let us take Jamal Rifi as first example.

From the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Jamal Rifi was very active in supporting the “revolutionists”. He participated in organising forums, rallies, fundraising dinners and visits to politicians and security agencies’ officials encouraging them to support the revolution. He gave fiery speeches about the need to support the armed rebellion against the Syrian government and its president. We can provide countless links to Jamal Rifi’s speeches and activities. He has never kept this a secret until now, that he supported armed rebellion.

I know that Jamal Rifi will reply to my comments here that he supported “moderate rebels” of the Free Syrian Army. The very same rebels that cut heads, ate hearts, threw civilians from the top of high-rise buildings, executed people in cold blood, burned people alive and used kids to behead captured Syrian soldiers. He is only right when he declares that the Free Syrian army is not proscribed terrorist organisation.

His arrogance went even further when he approached security agencies to protest how they were dealing with terrorism in May 2014 during the crack-down on Australian terrorists joining the fight in Syria. He was so naive to the point that he issued a media release demanding Anti-terrorism agencies to stop implementing Foreign Incursion Act namely in stopping Australian terrorists-to-be in our airport and confiscating their passports. In his media release (written in Arabic and published by Arabic newspapers) he openly considered that authorities crack-down on Australian joining terrorist organisations in Syria will mean one thing “ending the Syrian revolution”. He repeated these claims in an ABC article published 14 May 2014 (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-14/muslim-leaders-hold-closed-meetings-with-police/5451094) and demanded that ASIO and Anti-terrorism agencies to “back away from enforcing "draconian" laws that make it a crime to support the civil war in Syria”.

In the above ABC article, Jamal Rifi admitted that he was questioned by ASIO and AFP on several occasions for his suspicious activities in support of extreme groups in Syria.

The story of Jamal Rifi had a serious twist when our authorities and other Western authorities including US government changed their rhetoric on the Syrian crisis. The coin suddenly flipped over immediately after the media started reporting extensively on ISIS horrendous crimes and after the federal government started talking tough on the need for new strong anti-terrorism laws. When the government started conducting extensive consultations with Muslim “leaders” and organisations, Jamal Rifi suddenly and with no prior warning made the biggest u-turn.

After earlier meeting Anti-terrorism officials to urge them to stop preventing Australian Muslims from joining terrorist organisations, Jamal Rifi voiced his opposition to one of these terrorist organisations, ISIS.

Then something extraordinary happened, something which happens only in Bollywood movies. A close family friend of Jamal Rifi sent him a tweet. The tweet was asking for Jamal Rifi’s address. An address which would be known to a very large number of Australians since his name and address have always been listed in the white pages. The Bollywood segment did not stop there. The subtly threatening tweet from this close family friend was deleted after 30 minutes. But surprisingly, these 30 minutes were enough for Jamal Rifi to intercept and read the tweet. The 30 minutes were enough for Jamal Rifi to take a snapshot. The 30 minutes were enough to pass the tweet to the media. 30 minutes were enough for many journalists to take the snapshot. And 30 minutes were enough for Jamal Rifi to hold a press conference.

Our media, which was described by many Australian philosophers and experts as the most naive and superficial media on earth, did not ask vital questions before they started to air this Bollywood segment as truth:
- Why would a terrorist, in this case Mohamed Elomer, delete his own tweet after 30 minutes of posting it? It’s not that terrorist Mohamed Elomar was going to ever return to Australia.
- Why would this high-profile terrorist target Jamal Rifi specifically, and not other Muslims who are more active on criticising ISIS and other terrorist organisations?
- Why would this high profile terrorist tweet a shy threats asking for the address of a high-profile GP (an address that is listed on Yellow pages and Google)? Why not threaten to kill him or kidnap his family (similar to threats I received from the begging of 2011 until now)?
- Why were there no subsequent threats sent to Mr Rifi following to the deleted tweet?

The media has fooled all of us and suddenly, Jamal Rifi has become a paladin of de-radicalisation efforts.

Not one media outlet has shed any light on Jamal Rifi’s contribution to radicalisation of our youth since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. Suddenly, Jamal Rifi got rid of his radical skin and has became the messiah that will bring stability and harmony to this nation.

Not only this. The Murdoch press granted him many awards for his efforts on de-radicalisation. In conclusion, it is thanks to the media that this individual who supported radicals, is now presented to us as the only hope Australians have to stop radicalisation and terrorism.

I talked once with an ABC journalist about Jamal Rifi and his Bollywood segment which transformed him into a paladin of de-radicalisation efforts. He is one of the very active ABC journalists who reported extensively on terrorism and radicalisation. I consider him to be clever and knowledgeable on this issue. When I questioned him with the points mentioned above, regarding Jamal Rifi’s Bollywood segment, the only answer he could give me was “but he (Rifi) condemns ISIS”. My reply was: “He did, but at the end of 2014. While ISIS is fully functioning in Syria from mid 2012”. I also reminded the ABC journalist about Rifi’s meeting with Nick Kaldas mid May 2014 when he was demanding authorities to stop the crack down on Australian extremists from joining ISIS and other terrorist organisation.

To date, I did not receive any answer from any journalist about why Jamal Rifi suddenly became the paladin hero of de-radicalisation efforts after been an icon for the extremist radicals.

The reason for this is complex. It is more about the nature of our naive superficial media. It also has a lot to do with our media serving the US imperialist agenda. And of course, it has a lot to do with political parties’ agenda in keeping communities under control by enforcing Jamal Rifi and similar figures as their leaders. Leaders that have very little respect from the community they live in.

It is our task to break all these agendas.

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