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Independent study shows Al Arabiya is most trusted channel in Syria

The study finds that 13.2 percent of viewers in Syria trust Al Arabiya, while some 7.2 percent trust Al Jazeera

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Al Arabiya is the most trusted and most viewed news channel in Syria, followed by its pan-Arab competitor Al Jazeera, a recent study conducted by the Germany-based organization Media in Cooperation and Transition (MiCT) shows.

According to the survey, 13.2 percent of viewers in Syria trust Al Arabiya, while some 7.2 percent trust Al Jazeera. The same study says 19.5 percent of viewers in Syria follow Al Arabiya, while 11.7 percent follow Al Jazeera.

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The study says the “the media culture in Syria is strongly dominated by television consumption regardless of location and demographic factors.”

“Access and use of radio, newspapers and the internet show more variation between different locations,” according to the study.

Channels that are considered close to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have higher viewership in the regime-controlled areas while cross-regional channels such as Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera the oppositional channel Orient TV have more viewers in contested areas, the study shows.

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One of the researchers behind the study told Al Arabiya News that there is a “selective exposure at play reflected in these results.”

“Like most audiences around the world, most Syrian audiences tend to listen and watch media that may reflect their political leanings, but of course this does not apply to everyone, but certainly the majority of the audiences,” said Dr. Jad Melki, journalism and media studies professor at the American University in Beirut.

But in a country like Syria where television is remains the preferred medium to access news “selective exposure” can be “dangerous,” Dr. Melki added.

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“The problem with such selective exposure and what we call the echo chamber effect, is that audiences construct separate worlds and realities, even those living side by side in the same community, and that potentially is dangerous for any community or country as it facilitates driving people apart and promotes narratives and beliefs that vilify the "other" and may fuel further hate, violence and killing,” he said in an email statement.

He explained that the one purpose for the study is to “assess the prevalence of such echo chamber effect (when people live in their own media worlds that echo their beliefs and stop paying attention to other opinions and narratives) and see what way to counter it and bring people together.”

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He said internet users who tend to filter content can also fall prey to the similar negative effects.

“One effective method has been "media literacy education" which promotes critical thinking about media and helps individuals protect themselves from propaganda and hate-speech, and encourages them to step outside their comfort zones,” Dr. Melki said.

The “Syria Audience Research August 2014” report surveyed Syrians in their home country, as well as Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.