Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2002

2002 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father in 2000, relaxed controls over the news media and promised further reforms. The first privately owned newspaper in 40 years was inaugurated. Even state-controlled papers published lively discussions of political reform. Use of the Internet expanded dramatically. Early in 2001, however, the president announced a slowdown in the reform process. Critics, not as fearful as in the president's father's time, used Lebanese and Pan-Arab newspapers to express dissent. In September, new restrictions on the press were issued, banning news deemed to harm national security, the unity of society, or Syria's international ties. Any publication that calls for change in the Syrian constitution or for civil disobedience would be shut down. Yet the public's demand for critical journalism has been supported by the fast-selling weekly cartoons of Ali Farzat. His satirical paper Al-Domari (The Lamplighter) pokes fun, so far with impunity, at political corruption and the bureaucracy.