As Syria’s bitter divide plays out between regime and opposition negotiators in Geneva, journalists from both camps are also locking horns on the sidelines of UN-brokered peace talks.
Whether in the tree-lined gardens of the UN’s European headquarters or its corridors and packed press conference rooms, Syrian reporters face each other down with scowls and even hurl abuse.
The rivals spend their time battling their opponents’ spin and trying to show that only they are the true voice of Syria.
As well as being rebuked Wednesday by UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s press team for their mass yelling of questions, the Syrian press corps has also sparked tongue-in-cheek comments, with mediator Lahkdar Brahimi asking Friday: “Is everyone in this room Syrian or what?”
The proximity between Syrian official and opposition reporters is unprecedented, echoing the fact that representatives of President Bashar al-Assad and his adversaries are finally sitting down in the same room, almost three years after the conflict erupted.
“The novelty in Geneva is that the Syrian state is represented for the first time on the political level and the media level at a conference on Syria,” state television news director Habib Salman told AFP in Geneva.
The most recent international conferences of the so-called Friends of Syria countries only involved the opposition.
At the latest UN meeting, neither side’s journalists have pulled their punches in questions to rival delegations, swinging from ironic to outright aggressive.
In the Swiss city of Montreux