'Top media outlets turn to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) for figures on deaths and detentions, never noting the group’s seamless connection to Syria’s opposition, the support it receives from states that waged war on the country, or its open lobbying for US military intervention.'
'This is part one in an investigation into government-funded, opposition-linked NGOs that pose as impartial monitors and investigators of the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) portrays itself as a neutral “monitor” of Syria’s bloody war. In recent years, the group has become a go-to source for corporate media outlets.
Major US newspapers, human rights organizations, and even governments have credulously echoed SNHR’s dubious reports. But not once have these institutions questioned what exactly the organization is, who funds it, and what its relationship is to Syria’s armed opposition.
An investigation by The Grayzone reveals that the Syrian Network for Human Rights is far from the impartial arbiter that it has been sold as. In reality, it is a key player in the Syrian opposition. Currently based in Qatar, SNHR is funded by foreign governments and staffed by top opposition leaders.
This “monitoring group” has even openly lobbied for “immediate intervention” in Syria by an “international coalition,” citing NATO’s 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia as a model. These explicit calls for foreign military intervention have been repeated for years by SNHR itself, as well as by the organization’s leaders.
Yet one would never know this side of the SNHR’s activities from corporate media reporting.
An ‘independent monitoring group’ run by the Syrian opposition
On May 11, The New York Times published an exposé claiming to provide new details of a “secret, industrial-scale system of arbitrary arrests and torture prisons” in Syria. Filed from Turkey by reporter Anne Barnard, this article centered around the eyebrow-raising claim that 128,000 people have never emerged from Syrian prisons, “and are presumed to be either dead or still in custody.”
The Times’ source for this shocking statistic was the Syrian Network for Human Rights, which Barnard described as an “independent monitoring group that keeps the most rigorous tally.”
SNHR also supplied key data for a June 2 report by Washington Post reporter Louisa Loveluck on the arrests of Syrian refugees who have returned home. The group insisted that “2,000 people have been detained after returning to Syria during the past two years.”
In the past few years, SNHR has been uncritically cited by major news outlets, from The Guardian to The Intercept to The Daily Beast. Western journalists have unquestioningly regurgitated SNHR data to provide statistical heft to gut-wrenching reports on the Syrian government’s alleged abuses.'
Read more: Behind the Syrian Network for Human Rights: How an opposition front group became Western media’s go-to monitor