France 24 routines: According to France 24 prior to the interview of Lamia Chakkour on the ‘Debate’ show France 24 contacted the Syrian Embassy’s press section. After France 24 had informed the Embassy of the theme of yesterdays ‘Debate’ France 24 got a positive response. France 24 was informed by the Embassy, which phone number that should call to contact the ambassador. According to France 24 this phone number had previously been used when they wanted to get in touch with Lamia Chakkour.
Reuter’s confirmation from the Syrian Embassy: The same day Reuters news agency could confirm the resignation by Lamia Chakkour by an e-mail from the Syrian Embassy.
The quick reaction from the Syrian regime: The telephone interview by a woman claiming to be Lamia Chakkour was conducted on Syrian State TV and Al Arabiya after the France 24 ‘Debate’ ended points to the fact that the ‘resignation’ was a planned move. After four years in Syria I fell quite emboldened in my claim that when the Syrian regime is caught by surprise their reaction is first one of silence. The information has to travel up the chain of command before a decision can be reached, and this usually takes some time. Hours. Sometimes days or even weeks, if at all. In this case we are talking about less then an hour.
Lamia Chakkour’s reaction: If somebody who is not the Syrian ambassador but claims she is goes on live on a French TV channel, in this case France 24, and resigns you would think that the real Syrian ambassador would contact that channel to set the record straight. But no. Instead the Syrian ambassador contacts Syrian State TV and then Al Arabiya. First after many hours did she make a statement to another French channel, BFM. No contact has been taken by the Syrian ambassador or by the Syrian Embassy with France 24. Indeed, the France 24 has yet not managed to get in touch with the Syrian ambassador or Syrian Embassy.
Lamia Chakkour’s attack against France 24: In the interview with BFM Lamia Chakkour lambasted France 24 – “France 24 … is issuing a message in my name. Naturally, I will bring a lawsuit to condemn France 24 for its acts of disinformation, which are part of a campaign of falsification of information and disinformation which began in March 2011 against”. She also stated that France 24 gave a platform to dissidents.
Con: Now, one cannot ignore other possibilities such as a) the hacking of the home page of the Syrian Embassy/a fake Lamia Chakkour calling France 24 and e-mailing Reuters, b) one or more members of the Syrian Embassy in Paris going rouge or that c) relatives of Lamia Chakkour has been threatened in order to get her in line. But all in all the most plausible hypothesis is that France 24 was hoodwinked by the Syrian regime.
An analysis – why? Primo: The fact that the first interviews, by a woman claiming to be Lamia Chakkour, were to Syrian State TV and Al Arabiya, I would argue, is an indication that the reason for this move against France 24 is mainly for internal Syrian (and Lebanese) consumption. France 24 had, as Lamia Chakkour stated in her interview to BFM, given room to Syrian dissidents/pro-democracy activists and had, in the eyes of the Syrian regime, conducted a campaign of lies since March 2011. This was first and foremost a move to further delegitimize foreign media in the eyes of the Syrian public.
Secundo: France. The same day as France 24 ‘Debate’ Alain Juppé had said that Bashar al-Assad had lost all legitimacy. Furthermore France is together with the UK spearheading a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the violence by the Syrian regime as possible war crimes. The vote in the UNSCR is set to be within 24 hours.