Patrick Cockburn, writing in the London Review of Books, calls it 'the nadir of Western media coverage of the wars in Iraq and Syria'. He is referring to the reporting of the siege of East Aleppo, which ended last December, when Syrian government forces took control of the last rebel-held areas and more than 100,000 civilians were evacuated.

Cockburn says that, during the bombardment, TV networks and many newspapers appeared to lose interest in whether any given report was
true or false and instead competed with one another to publicise the most eye-catching atrocity story even when there was little evidence that it had taken place. He adds that it was a gross exaggeration to compare the events in East Aleppo – as journalists and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic did in December – with the mass slaughter of 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994 or more than 7,000 in Srebrenica in 1995.

He writes: 'All wars always produce phony atrocity stories – along with real atrocities. But in the Syrian case fabricated news and one-sided reporting have taken over the news agenda to a degree probably not seen since the first world war. The ease with which propaganda can now be disseminated is frequently attributed to modern information technology: YouTube, smartphones, Facebook, Twitter. But this is to let mainstream media off the hook: it’s hardly surprising that in a civil war each side will use whatever means are available to publicise and exaggerate the crimes of the other, while denying or concealing similar actions by their own forces. The real reason that reporting of the Syrian conflict has been so inadequate is that Western news organisations have almost entirely outsourced their coverage to the rebel side'.

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