Very few Western journalists — any journalists — risk travelling round Syria at the moment. So they report from Beirut or the Turkish border or Dubai. Patrick Cockburn (who is older, has trouble walking and is by no means slim or fit) has been going from conflict zone to conflict zone all week and reports on it in today’s (UK) Independent on Sunday. As he says, “in the middle of a ferocious civil war it is self-serving credulity on the part of journalists to assume that either side in the conflict, government or rebel, is not going to concoct or manipulate facts to serve its own interests. Yet much foreign media coverage is based on just such an assumption.” He finds a government too obsessed with secrecy to allow journalists to report its side of the story and rebels as influenced by cigarettes and money as by the call of fundamentalism. He ends, as only Cockburn would, with a sonnet by John Milton.

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