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Syria and Russia in satellite broadcasting talks

Aleppo, Syria. Photograph courtesy of AFP.

The Syrian Minister for Information, Mohammed Ramez Turgeman, has intimated that the Syrian government is in discussions with Russia about a possible satellite acquisition so that Damacus can assert greater control over how its information and propaganda can be disseminated throughout the country and beyond without being interfered with.

The ongoing discussions with Russia were revealed in an Iranian press interview with Turgeman on 24 January 2017.

Turgeman also spoke about how the Syrian government, buoyed by its recent recovery of the city of Aleppo with the help of Iranian-backed forces and Russian air power, is bolstering and refocusing its informational and propaganda efforts via social media and other traditional forms of medai such as newspapers, radio, and television outlets.

Speaking about the removal of Syrian government, Iranian, and Hezbollah satellite television news channels, such as Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV, from major satellite providers such as Arabsat and Nilesat (among others), Turgeman said, “This is extremely important, several meetings were held with Director General of Al-Manar Channel along with Head of Islamic Radio and Television Union, Sheikh Ali Karimyan. It was agreed to move on this project in cooperation with Russia. Practical and useful steps have already been taken in this regard.”

One of the ways in which Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah have circumvented their lack of access to Arab and Western satellite providers is to move their broadcasts to Russian satellite providers such as the Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC) that operates several satellites that provide coverage throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is also known that media outlets supported by the Syrian and Iranian governments, as well as Hezbollah, stream programming and provide other content via the Internet, social media, and through apps such as Telegram.

The discussions with Russia mentioned by Turgeman could also include the possible acquisition by Syria of a Russian-made communications satellite, but more likely for now is the continued broadcast of Syrian, Iranian, and Hezbollah through Russian owned satellites as well as through the Iranian National Communications Satellite (NCS), currently being built by Russia for Tehran, and due to be launched in the next few years.

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