Daily Express recycles Russian propaganda on Syrian refugees

The paper hails Vladimir Putin's 'heroic efforts'


It may be hard to believe today, but the Daily Express was once a serious newspaper, with reporters like the great James Cameron covering international stories.

A morbid symptom of its current terminal decline is its sloppy attitude towards world news, choosing the flimsiest of sources to support its insular worldview.

A story published online last night carries the headline:

More than 800,000 refugees RETURNING to Syria as Putin OBLITERATES Islamic State

MORE than 800,000 refugees are set to return to Syria thanks to Vladimir Putin’s heroic efforts to smash the Islamic State”.

The paper’s Facebook page adds: ‘Keep it up Vlad…’

Express Putin

Of course, the Russian dictator’s ‘heroic efforts’ have been to target not Islamic State but the less fanatical Free Syrian Army and other opposition militias. Indeed, most strikes have not even been in areas where ISIS is based.

Meanwhile, Russian planes have destroyed at least four Syrian hospitals, (leaving the recent US bombing of one hospital in Afghanistan in the shade), along with several ambulances, with the kind of precision that doesn’t happen by accident.

In this, Putin is simply continuing the Assad regime’s targeting of civillians while leaving ISIS virtually free to roam.

This is a highly shabby record of crime and atrocity – or as the Daily Express would put it, ‘heroic efforts’.

If you are wondering why a story published in a British newspaper could have been written by the Kremlin, the answer is simple: it was.

The only source cited for Russia’s glorious record in Syria is ‘Russian politician Dmitry Sablin’, who allegedly visited the country, and ‘Russian media’.

No source is given for the claim 800,000 refugees have returned to Syria.

The figure appears to have come from Sputnik News, a propaganda outfit owned by the Russian government, and set up late last year as a ‘rebranding’ of RIA Novosti for western audiences.

As its general director Dmitry Kiselev says, Sputnik exists to ‘provide alternative interpretations’ of world events, with a name that ‘sounds familiar, warm, swift and romantic’ to western ears.

Sputnik itself cites Iranian state television, the aptly named Fars News Agency (FNA), for the ‘800,000 refugees’ claim, while another report puts it in the mouth of Syria’s grand mufti, who is a dogged supporter of Bashar al-Assad.

Incidentally, 800,000 is the number of refugees Germany expects to receive this year. The Sputnik report claims Germany is engaged in a ‘propaganda war’ against Russia.

In its breathless zeal to find an alternative to accepting Syrian refugees in Britain, the Daily Express has published lies confected by dictatorships propping up a murderous tyrant.

So blinded by its hostility to immigrants and its bid for the xenophobe’s quid, or perhaps happy a Christian government is ‘smashing’ Muslims, (the paper’s masthead still bears a crusading knight as its logo), the Express has failed to conduct even the most basic scrutiny of its sources.

This is what porn-baron and UKIP funder Richard Desmond can boast of having done to the paper of James Cameron.


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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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