Orient TV founder on the mechanics of corruption in Syria
A great interview with Ghassan Abboud – founder of Orient TV…. on the corruption in Syria etc…
An excerpt from our Daily Briefing today at Mideastwire.com.
On April 9, the Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following interview with Syrian businessman and journalist Ghassan Abboud:
…Q: “You had a strong and successful launching [of the Orient Channel], after which point the difficulties started emerging and were tackled by the media. Can we hear about them from you personally?
A: “I will speak to you honestly because these are the times of freedom. I hope that the people will forgive me for my previous press interviews. I am afraid like they are. I have things to be scared for. I am the son of fear raised in the soil of fear, and have never felt free until Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire… Orient Channel was launched on 2/2/2009, and in less than two months was able to enter the hearts of the Syrians because it was the only one with a different voice… We worked on a series of shows depicting the different Syrian groups, with all their sects, ethnicities, belongings and even occupations. We revealed the other, because if you do not know what is in your neighbor’s house, you will always fear him. We opened the people’s houses to each other, and allowed all the sects to see what the others were doing. This is why they loved this channel, because Syria under the rule of the Ba’th party annulled the privacy of human groups and tried to make them similar…”
“[A:] “Two and a half months later, Mr. Rami Makhlouf asked me to meet him in Damascus. Of course, I am Syrian, and I knew who Rami Makhlouf was. I was in a state of panic because I knew how this man operated. I went to Syria and met him in his office for about two and a half hours. Certainly, I did not enter alone and was accompanied by the chief editor and the administrative director, so that the meeting is not a closed one. Throughout the session, I listened to him talking, as though he was saying: “I am your supreme god and if you want to live, you will live with me, and if not, you know the consequences.” He even used the expression: “I am sad because Orient will die, since you are clearly stubborn.” Of course, I knew what he wanted. He wanted to be a partner with the most shares in order to control the channel. I have documents proving that, and I will reveal them when it is necessary. He also asked me to be his partner in a media company which will monopolize anything related to media and television in Syria… When I rejected his offer, many websites started insulting me by saying I had come to blackmail the Syrian government and that I had specific goals…”
“[A:] “I did not pay a lot of attention to this campaign until July 27, 2010 when the internal security forces raided our offices and asked the employees to leave. They did not break anything and allowed us to take all the tapes, which meant that someone wanted to leave the door open for dialogue… However, the employees were told that they were prohibited from working with Orient Channel, unless they present an official request to the Information Ministry which we all know has no role whatsoever… Rami Makhlouf tried to send “journalists” Imad al-Shuaibi, Ali Jamalo and others to mediate once again, and I still refused to partner up with him. During the month of Ramadan, our program was full and our channel came high up on the [rating] charts. The media officials thus contacted all the advertising companies to ask them not to advertise with us… Many companies ignored these instructions, until former Prime Minister Naji al-Otari issued an order to prevent any dealings with Orient Channel because it had committed legal violations whose nature has not been revealed until this day…”
“[A:] “When Ramadan was over, President Al-Assad met with a group of Syrian producers who complained to him they were finding it difficult to promote Syrian drama. They thus asked him to allow Syrian television channels to contribute by opening new markets for them, mentioning the name of Orient Channel among others. He told them however: “If you are talking about Orient Channel, we are still checking the source of its funding.” Imagine that after two years, the president of the republic still wants to check the source of its funding… Anyway, Al-Assad’s talk constituted a turning point, considering that prior to it, Rami Makhlouf wanted 55%, and after it he started calling and demanding 92%. Therefore, in order to prove my patriotism and loyalty to Bashar al-Assad, I had to relinquish 92.5%…”