Filed Under:

In Syria, Aleppo Today Is Must-See TV For Survival

Play associated audio

Every day, dozens of Syrians are killed and wounded in Aleppo, Syria's financial capital. Since July, President Bashar Assad's loyalists have mounted a relentless military campaign to dislodge rebels fighting for control of the northern city. Neither side can afford to lose.

Aleppo was once the largest city in Syria, with more than 4 million people. Many have fled the violence, but for those who remain, a private television station is a lifeline.

The channel is called Aleppo Today, and it has become, literally, "survival TV."

Aleppo Today was already broadcasting daily political reports when Syria's civil war swept into the city in late July. For the first time, Aleppo had a local channel outside government control, funded by local businessmen and run by activists. Now, Aleppo Today is a trusted source for civilians trying to stay alive in a city under siege.

"We are the only TV broadcasting for Aleppo, just for Aleppo," says the news editor, who doesn't want his name published. He fears for his family who live in a city now carved into pockets of rebel-held and regime-controlled neighborhoods.

For security reasons, NPR is not disclosing the location of the newsroom. It's a small office where the staff work in three shifts in order to provide 24-hour coverage. They monitor reports coming in from more than 40 correspondents in Aleppo itself, and another 30 reporters in the suburbs surrounding the city.

The broadcast is fairly simple — just music and still images. But what makes this must-see TV are the news tickers that run at the bottom of the screen.

One carries political news, the other is a constant live-stream update on the fighting. It's a street-by-street account that tracks the movement of government tanks, strikes by air force jets, rebel offensives in the city, even alerts on when the Internet is back up.

"If you are giving the right information, people can protect themselves, telling which areas are safe and which are not," the news editor says.

It's a quiet newsroom. The staff takes calls on headphones and types out reports from the front lines. There have been thousands of videos uploaded from Syria, but the newsroom staff says it checks with multiple sources before publishing a report.

The employees are young — the average age 27 — and well educated. They have families in Aleppo, so they also can't be named. Among them are an economist, a journalist, a German literature major and a lawyer.

"We just want to be able to say that we can speak out and not be killed," the news editor says.

It is a real fear: The channel — which is also available online — is often blocked by the regime, and the staff has been targeted. But every time the broadcasts are jammed, Aleppo Today moves to another satellite channel, and a loyal audience travels with it, in search of news that it truly can use.

Rima Marrouch contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Jack Davis, Cartoonist Who Helped Found 'Mad' Magazine, Dies

Money from a job illustrating a Coca-Cola training manual became a springboard for Jack Davis to move from Georgia to New York.
NPR

Cookie Dough Blues: How E. Coli Is Sneaking Into Our Forbidden Snack

Most people know not to eat raw cookie dough. But now it's serious: 46 people have now been sickened with E. coli-tainted flour. Here's how contamination might be occurring.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour – LIVE from Slim's Diner!

This special edition of the Politics Hour is coming to you live from Slim's Diner from Petworth in Northwest D.C.

NPR

Writing Data Onto Single Atoms, Scientists Store The Longest Text Yet

With atomic memory technology, little patterns of atoms can be arranged to represent English characters, fitting the content of more than a billion books onto the surface of a stamp.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.