Freedom of the Press
You are here
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Syria's regime continued to severely restrict press freedom in 2004, with no significant changes to report in the period. Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, the overall legal framework for press freedom is weak, hampered by vague laws with clauses aimed at protecting the Baath Party's monopoly on power. The State of Emergency Law and penal code ban publishing information that "opposes the goals of the revolution" or damages the image of the state. The Publications Law delineates the government's power to deny and rescind licenses for publications for reasons related to the public interest, which is not clearly defined. Journalists accused of libel or publishing "falsehoods" are subject to large fines and prison sentences.
Private and party newspapers rarely deviate from government-approved coverage and opinions, though criticism of the government increased slightly in late 2004. Kurdish protests in the spring of 2004 led to a government crackdown on journalists who called for expanded Kurdish rights. In March, the government detained Muhammad Ghanem, a Syrian correspondent for two newspapers based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), after he published an article arguing that all Syrian Kurds should receive citizenship. In August, the Supreme State Security Court sentenced Ferhat Abdalrahman and Ibrahim Nassam to three years in prison for writing articles and petitions advocating greater political freedom for the Kurds. In October, Masoud Hamid was sentenced to five years in prison for sending e-mail photos of a Kurdish demonstration in Damascus to a number of dissident-run Web sites. Finally, security services detained Syrian-Kurdish journalist Taha Hamed for one week in December after he wrote articles critical of the government on Kurdish issues.
Except for a handful of radio stations that do not broadcast news and do not report on political issues, radio and television outlets are all state owned. However, satellite dishes are widely available and used. The government has attempted to control access to the Internet and monitor its use, but Syrians can gain unfettered access by dialing up through other countries and through a new regional satellite company that offers Internet access. The government has stepped up prosecutions against journalists and advocates using the Internet. In June, Abdel Rahman Shaguri was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of "harming the image and national security of Syria" for sending e-mail copies of a dissident newsletter. In June, three journalists who wrote articles using pseudonyms for a UAE-based online newspaper were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to four years for allegedly revealing state secrets.