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All mainstream media rely on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) regarding reports about attrocities being committed against the Syrian population in the ongoing conflict.

A search on wikipedia shows that this observatory is a one-man "organisation" located in the UK. How can this be a reliable source for unbiased information?

  • 1
    If it's owned by the UK, chances are it would be more 'pro-western'. They will tend to be anti-Assad. I usually look for news from both sides and make a decision that way. It helps to have friends from Syria also so I can get their opinions also. – Noah Dec 16 '16 at 15:36
  • Reliable for what purpose? What do you want to do with this information? – indigochild Jan 12 '17 at 17:49
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It's not (reliable).

Sad truth is that there is not a single reliable source on the conflict, if you want to kind of know what's going on there, you need to follow a bunch of sources and go through a lot of propaganda to draw the median lines, if possible, over what happened.

EDIT 1: explaining the reasoning of the first claim

According to the Wikipedia article, that organization is composed of 1 (one) guy, a former anti-regime dissident living in Coventry:

The organisation is run by Rami Abdulrahman (sometimes referred to as Rami Abdul Rahman) from his home in Coventry. He is a Syrian Sunni Muslim who owns a clothes shop. Born Osama Suleiman, he adopted a pseudonym during his years of activism in Syria, and has used it publicly ever since.[4]

This should be a warning signal. As for his track record and impartiality:

SOHR has been accused of selective reporting, with AsiaNews saying that they covered only violent acts of the government forces against the opposition for the first two years of its existence.[6] SOHR has also been accused of reporting militant anti-government fighters among dead civilians,[7] and has been described as being "pro-opposition"[8][9][10][11] or anti-Assad.[12][13] It has been criticised for refusing to share its data or methodology.[14]

Or in the words of a Reddit user which matches my experience:

It's decent. It's a pro-rebel page so it's fairly accurate in reporting on opposition gains and news, but even then errors appear often and sometimes the page makes claims that end up being totally false. There are worse sources out there (SyrPer or Malcolmite come to mind), but there are also better sources. I would avoid taking SOHR's word for granted if you see them make a claim or report a victory/defeat.

Also, it's just one dude living in England. Idk how he gets his sources, but it's not a group - it's a single person.

Thing is, I could find you instances where he clearly reported something wrong, but you could say that for any source in this war. Reporting, for example, dead militants among dead civilians, inflating the military casualties of one side and deflating the civilian casualties from the other and vice versa - they are all common and honest mistakes in any conflict that anybody meaning well and with limited resources could make.

Patterns only emerge after following a source for a while. You notice one side never loses villages, just keeps conquering them over and over again :P or that children die of bombs only in their controlled territory or...

It's not just SOHR, try following any source for a while and you will notice most of their on-the-ground data or twitter sources, and possibly their allegiances seem to fall into wide categories, pro-government, pro-kurd, pro-isis, pro-rebel.

That's why my suggestion is to follow the situation closely, with a bunch of conflicting sources and see for yourself. In this conflict almost nobody will spoon-feed you real information for which everybody will agree that it's The Truth.

Open question, of course is, if my suggestion to you, a mere SE user is to follow a bunch of sources, and this one seems to be The Source for not only a lot of journalists, but the US government and UN bodies, how can this be?

Answer is probably politics :P journalists will typically (with some rare and honorable exceptions) pick up a partisan source and then retweet the hell out of it, SOHR for the rebellion, Yusha Yuseef for the regime, Syrian Rebellion Obs for Rojava Kurds etc.

  • Why isn't it reliable? Right now your answer is just a bare assertion. – Martin Tournoij Jan 12 '17 at 2:43
  • @Carpetsmoker elaborated my answer :) – bbozo Jan 12 '17 at 8:50
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    Not sure if the opinion of some "Chester_T_Molester" on Reddit really adds much to this answer. That's just another anonymous guy on the internet like the rest of us. – Philipp Jan 12 '17 at 8:56
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    @Philipp that reddit channel has some people who have been following the conflict closely for years now, and a quite a bit of people who are actually on the ground there or have contacts. It's basically, just as reliable as some Rami Abdulrahman from Coventry (it's SOHR if you missed my joke) and his mistery methodology, and that's exactly the thing - no source is reliable. You need to follow it for a while, look for patterns, compare news between conflicting sources and take nothing at face value. – bbozo Jan 12 '17 at 9:00
  • @bbozo honor by association fallacy. Someone posting on a reddit channel where some people know what they are talking about doesn't mean everyone who posts on that channel knows what they are talking about. – Philipp Jan 12 '17 at 12:15

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