Journalist Nir Rosen rejects allegations of collaborating with Assad regime
A US journalist has denied allegations that he spied for the Syrian regime and handed its officials information on the movement of fellow Western reporters.
Nir Rosen and Bashar al-Assad’s advisers emerged after the Syrian president’s personal email account was broken into by opposition groups and his messages handed to media organisations including UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
In the emails Rosen tries to land an interview with Assad, arguing that the international media was already reporting from inside of restricted zones in Syria, and highlighted favourable coverage of the regime he had secured on Al-Jazeera.
In one message from November, Rosen forwarded a BBC story from Homs by the journalist Paul Wood as evidence that Western media groups were evading the regime’s attempts to keep them out of the war zone. His email was eventually forwarded to Assad himself, with one adviser writing “Paul wood was smuggled to Homs!!!”, an indication that they were unaware of his presence until Rosen drew attention to it.
In a second message, one of Assad’s aides reports that Rosen had “personally informed” him that Western reporters were entering Syria from the Lebanese border and other prohibited routes.
In an earlier exchange arguing that he should be allowed to interview the Syrian president, Rosen writes: “I have succeeded in getting Al-Jazeera International to show the pro-government demonstrations in Syria and in showing that Bashar and his government have a lot of support and also in showing that there are definitely armed groups attacking the Syrian security forces.”
The Syrian government has consistently justified its use of force by saying it was facing an uprising from “terrorist groups”.
A spokesman for the Revolutionary Council in Homs, who asked not to be named for his safety, accused Rosen of “trading information about us and journalists in Homs with the regime in exchange for privileges from Bashar Assad's regime.”
In an interview with the Telegraph, Rosen said the only information he shared were links to stories already available on the internet and said that more senior Syrian security officials would have already known about the presence of Western journalists.
“If a bunch of 25-year-old advisers to the president didn’t know that the BBC had aired a programme on Syria I certainly don’t think that my letting them know what was already available to the entire world was going to make a difference, especially because the BBC journalists had already left the country by that point,” he said.
He also denied that he had acted as a “friendly” journalist to Assad, saying he had been shot at by government troops while in Homs and that “my journalism speaks for itself”.
Rosen was granted two visas to report from Syria at a time when many other journalists were denied entry but said “no conditions or limitations were placed on me”.
“You deal with media people and you kiss their a--- to get the access whether it’s the Taliban, the US military or the Syrian regime,” Rosen said.