Why We Need American Reporters in Syria

Despite all the coverage of Syria this week, there are only two American journalists on the ground — Wall Street Journal reporter Sam Dagher and CNN TV correspondent Frederik Pleitgen.

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Despite all the coverage of Syria this week, there are only two American journalists on the ground — Wall Street Journal reporter Sam Dagher and CNN TV correspondent Frederik Pleitgen. The danger, along with how difficult it is to get the necessary visas to report in Syria, limits the West's ability to report from the scene, but the journalists on the ground tend to add something crucial to the story — the perspective of actual Syrians. While most Syria coverage wonders what the U.S., France and the U.K. think of a strike, Dagher and Pleitgen's reports have been more concerned with what Syrians on both side of the war hope and fear.

In an article and accompanying video published earlier this week Dagher interviewed Mounir and Samir Fandi, members of the pro-regime National Defense Force. The two brothers joined the Homs, Syria branch of the NDF after their father was killed. Dagher wrote:

Mounir worked as a technician at the country's telephone company. Samir was a traffic cop.

Life for the 40-year-old brothers changed abruptly 20 months ago. Their 85-year-old father and another brother were killed by rebels at a fake checkpoint in Homs—the Fandis believe for no other reason than belonging to the Alawite minority that dominates the Syrian regime.

Another Dagher report found that many anti-regime Syrians are also wary of a U.S. strike. "I am not with [Assad] and I do not like him, but I want to live. I fear for my wife; I fear we won't be able to leave our homes because of the chaos," a well-to-do merchant residing near Assad told Dagher. "The U.S. will only bring us more problems," an activist in a rebel-held town told him, adding that the U.S. should provide the rebels with better weapons instead.

In an email to The Huffington Post, Pleitgen emphasized that both sides of the Syrian Civil War have the support of the people. He wrote:

I think, especially at the beginning of this conflict, it was often portrayed as though it was the Assads and their military against the people. But there are many here who support the regime even though they are very critical of it. They are afraid of the alternative, and afraid of losing their very secular and open way of life.

Over 15 Western journalists have gone missing from Syria in the last year, and even The Washington Post has been unable to secure a visa for more than a year. But the journalists who manage to report from Syria are answering the questions the world hasn't been asking.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.