The Russian embassy in Syria has slammed CBS News for sending its reporters into Idlib province, which is controlled by the al-Qaeda group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), at a moment of a stepped up joint Russian-Syrian aerial assault campaign over the northwestern territory.
Over the weekend the embassy tweeted of the CBS team's reporting from Idlib: CBS News crew + a "white helmet" (not wearing one, apparently) = another act of media warfare in the making.
CBS News crew + a "white helmet" (not wearing one, apparently) = another act of media warfare in the making. Or we are wrong, and those TV guys are just asking for directions to #Mhardeh & #Suqaylabiyah to record impact of terrorist attacks from #Idlib | #Syria #NotATarget #سورية pic.twitter.com/gFbSaa5Q6A— Russian Embassy, Syria (@RusEmbSyria) June 15, 2019
Note the "dress code" the female CBS correspondent has apparently willingly donned.
Both Moscow and Damascus have long accused US and western media correspondents of essentially giving terror groups operating inside Syria a major platform to air their propaganda, including claims of chemical weapons attacks. Russia as well as some western commentators have also described the White Helmets as essentially "the rescue wing of al-Qaeda".
As some Middle East analysts were quick to point out, the CBS crew would have had to receive permission from HTS/al-Qaeda to be in Idlib in the first place. The Russian embassy accusation that CBS is engaged in "an act of media warfare" seems geared toward that fact.
A number of American journalists, including the Washington Post's Liz Sly were outraged, noting that the CBS crew was "on the ground" to report "on the Russian-Syrian offensive there".
However, it remains that HTS and thus Idlib province itself, is under the military control of none other Syrian al-Qaeda leader Abu Muhammad al-Jolani.
In 2017 the US State Department offered a ten million dollar bounty for information leading to Jolani's whereabouts or capture, based on his US Treasury listing as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" - also featured on the FBI's wanted list.
Interestingly, we wonder... less than two decades after 9/11 are major US news networks asking the head of al-Qaeda's most powerful branch permission to enter AQ territory in cooperation with its "rebel" fighters on the ground? It appears so.