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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Syria

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Syria, February 1998, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

As President Hafez al-Assad completed the 27th year of his authoritarian rule, the press remained firmly under state control. The absence of independent media is testimony to the regime's dominance over civil society, unabated since Assad eradicated his political opposition in the early 1980s. The fear of arrest, torture, and prolonged imprisonment – treatment that has become the hallmark of much of Assad's rule – keeps journalists in check and hinders the emergence of nonpartisan media. Although in recent months, newspapers have been able to run stories about official corruption, the Ministry of Information closely supervises the country's state-run dailies and provides strict content guidelines for editors and journalists.

Those foreign publications that are allowed into the country offer some independent news coverage, but they must first run the gantlet of state censors. For example, the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, which began distribution in Syria in July, says that distribution of the paper was banned on an average of four times a month during the year for its coverage of Syrian affairs. Because of restrictions on the domestic print media, satellite dishes have proliferated, and Syrians increasingly rely on television programming beamed in from abroad.

At year's end, five journalists remained in prison in Syria. Between 1992 and 1994, they were convicted by the Supreme State Security Court and sentenced to anywhere from three to 15 years for a variety of alleged offenses, including their involvement in political organizations and their affiliation with the leading Syrian human rights group, the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF). Nizar Nayouf, an activist with the CDF who received a 10-year sentence in 1992, has remained in solitary confinement at Mezze military prison in Damascus since 1993.

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