Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 28
Political Influences: 32
Economic Pressures: 20
Total Score: 80

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 70
Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (74 percent), other Muslim [including Alawite and Druze] (16 percent), Christian [various sects] (10 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Arab (90 percent), other [including Kurd and Armenians] (10 percent)
Capital: Damascus

Syria's military-dominated regime continued to restrict press freedom severely in 2003; no significant changes took place during the year. 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 Emergency Law and the penal code ban publishing information that opposes the goals of the revolution and prevents authorities from executing their responsibilities. 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. In July 2003, the Syrian government suspended the only independent weekly satirical newspaper, Al-Domari, for an alleged but unclear breach of the publications law. Except for a handful of radio stations that do not broadcast news, radio and television outlets are all state-owned. Citizens have access to the Internet only through state-owned servers, which block and censor content. Syrian security forces arrested Abdel Rahman Shagouri in February and held him in detention without trial for the remainder of the year, allegedly for distributing a newsletter from a banned Internet site.

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