Documents obtained by MEE reveal how British contractors recruited Syrian citizen journalists - often without their knowledge - to promote 'moderate opposition'
by Ian Cobain, Alice Ross
Part 2 - Three-pronged campaign
The British government’s citizen journalism project was part of a three-pronged propaganda initiative that was developed in London and was, according to the documents, intended to “have a synergistic effect”.
The first strand, named Syrian Identity, sought to “unite Syrians through positive affirmation of common cultures and practices and to restore trust between neighbours, while illustrating Syrians’ strength in numbers,” according to the blueprint.
The documents explain that the second strand, called Free Syria, “seeks to build confidence in a future Syria free from extremist rule".
It "amplifies the work of the ‘free’ police, civil defence teams and wider public service provision and broader developments in civil society and seeks to unite the moderate opposition (civil and armed) to work for a common future”.
The third, known as Undermine, “seeks to degrade the effectiveness of VE [violent extremist] networks in Syria by undermining the credibility of VE narratives and actors and isolating VE organisations from the populace.”
The document goes on, using a different acronym for IS: “ISIL is an explicit and named focus, Al Nusra Front (due to its current popularity within Syria) is addressed indirectly through its behaviour.
“The purpose of the project to directly ‘Undermine’ (degrading the effectiveness of) VE networks in Syria through the delivery of media product, the emboldening and empowering of moderate voices, and supporting community coalescence around a vision of a tolerant, pluralist Syria. Ultimately, active Syrian rejection of VE is the requirement.”
The documents add that the research underpinning the initiative “will need to be able to draw upon open source material, jihadist discourse and, in particular, a network of assets inside Syria”.
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