Freedom of the Press
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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)
- Although the constitution provides for freedoms of speech and of the press, these rights are severely restricted in practice. The 2001 Press Law allows for broad control over all print media and forbids reporting on topics deemed sensitive by the government—such as issues of “national security” or “national unity”—as well as the publication of “inaccurate” information.
- Defamation remains a criminal offense. In January, journalist Mazen Darwish was sentenced to 10 days in jail for defaming state institutions. His sentence was subsequently commuted to five days.
- The government strictly controls the dissemination of information. Criticism of the government can lead to legal suits, fines, harassment, and dismissal. Several journalists were reportedly removed from their positions during the year for criticism of the government and meeting with international media organizations.
- The Ministry of Information (MOI) and the Ministry of Culture and National Guidance (MCNG) routinely censor domestic and foreign publications. Currently, all Kurdish-language publications are banned, though they are still available in some areas. In February the MOI briefly halted distribution of three journals for criticizing government policies. The ban on one, Al-Hal, remained in place at year’s end. The business weekly Borsat wa Aswak was suspended more than five times during 2008.
- Journalists are frequently harassed and detained. Harassment includes banishment from the country, failure to respond to accreditation requests, and extralegal intimidation. A wave of arrests continued in January following a December 2007 meeting of the Damascus Declaration, a group organized around a 2005 manifesto calling for democratic change in Syria.