The networks use the very real challenges of reporting from inside Syria as an excuse to avoid stories that challenge their preferred narrative. Elsewhere, for instance, articles have raised questions about the credibility of the widely quoted Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based Syrian opposition outlet — but Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya haven’t touched the story. Newspapers around the world have also focused on the presence of terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, among the anti-regime fighters — but such a possibility is rarely, if ever, entertained on the main Arabic stations.
Both channels also suffer from a “Yasir Arafat” dichotomy — a reference to the late Palestinian leader, who had a habit of tailoring his message depending on his audience. The stations’ rhetoric differs greatly depending on the language they broadcast in. For instance, Al Jazeera English and Al Arabiya’s English-language website have broached the topic of al Qaeda fighters in Syria, even as it goes unmentioned on their vastly more influential Arabic-language counterparts. Instead, the Arabic-language channels continually host guests who refute any suggestions of the sort.