Here is an illuminating snapshot of co-operation between Syria and Russia over propaganda, aiming at an English-speaking audience.

On Monday morning, we woke to President Assad’s lengthy interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia. I initially took a sound-bite from AFP and looked at the English translation as presented by Syrian State news agency SANA.

Something did not ring true in SANA, notably Assad’s supposed emphasis on “Takfiris” [Muslim heretics] attacking Damascus — that word has been a go-to label in Syrian and Iranian propaganda for the insurgency. So, wanting to have an accurate sense of the full discussion, I asked EA’s Joanna Paraszczuk to translate the Izvestia account.

That was at 0545 GMT. Fifteen minutes later, Paraszczuk’s first entry was posted in a special feature. She completed the translation at 0815 GMT.

See also Syria Feature: English Translation Of President Assad’s Interview With Izvestia

The article has been one of the most-viewed on EA’s website, a testimony to its importance as perceived by readers.

But that is only the start of this story.

At 1415 GMT, we noticed that The Interpreter, an English-language website covering news from Russia, was tweeting about another translation.

And The New York Times was also passing on the news:

So had EA missed something? Or had a distorted account of Assad’s interview now in circulation?

We immediately found the red-flag word “Takfiris” throughout the text.

So we checked further. The translation on Izvestia was curious.The Russian paper does not have an English-language site — it had chosen to make an exceptional case and put an English text on its Russian site.

So was Izvestia posting an accurate translation of its interview?

No — and here’s the propaganda twist.

Izvestia’s translation — published at 1040 GMT — is a word-for-word duplicate of the distorted version posted by Syria’s SANA hours earlier.

The lesson? When I asked Joanna Paraszczuk to translate the interview, I also wondered how he was going to get his message across to the English-speaking world.

Publication on SANA’s English site is one way, obviously, but SANA carries the label of “Syrian regime outlet”.

So here was a second stage: publish the article on Izvestia and look for international media to take it from there.

Which, in at least two cases, is exactly what has happened.