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Amid bloodshed and chaos, Syrian wages a war for neutral reporting

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"You aren’t seeing any media coverage of Damascus and Latakia," where the government is still strong, both because reporters are not granted access and because "those who support Assad think they should not speak to journalists, that the media is trying to weaken the country," he says.

And coverage of the opposition isn't very fair either, he says, claiming that Western reporters "are only going in with the extreme opposition," such as Al Qaeda-linked groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, which the US recently designated a terrorist organization. Jarrah says reports about the prevalence of such groups are "over-exaggerated" because they sell more copy.

Prison, pseudonyms, and flight

Born in Cyprus to Syrian dissident parents and raised in London, Jarrah was working toward a degree in journalism in Dubai when he visited Syria for the first time in 2004. He was arrested upon landing, accused of espionage, slapped with a three-year travel ban, and forced to remain in a country where he was initially unable even to read the language, although he spoke it fluently.

During the initial protests in early 2011, he was beaten, tortured, and released only after admitting to being a "terrorist." Left jobless after refusing to attend a pro-government rally, he became well known in the dissident community under the pseudonym Alexander Page for getting information to Western media outlets through his blog. His fluent English, training in journalism, anti-regime stance, and contacts all led to frequent requests for interviews in Western media. He granted them, but never revealed his real name.

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