Bashar Al-Assad, President, Syria
Despite the appearance of privately-owned media outlets, the ruling Baath Party keeps total control of the news. The country's return to the international scene in 2008 has not changed the situation. Censorship includes the Internet and access to more than 200 websites is blocked. The information ministry began redrafting the press law in 2005 to incorporate the Internet and since 2007 cybercafé managers have been obliged to keep copies of all comments their customers post on chat forums. The government approved a law in late 2010 to further restrict online activity.
Since the street protest movement began in mid-March 2011, threats and physical attacks against journalists have increased and foreigners, notably those working for AP and Reuters news agencies, have been arrested and deported. Many Syrian journalists and bloggers have been arrested too and the regime has prevented the media from going to cover demonstrations. Entry visas for foreign journalists are hard to get. Syrians and foreigners living in the country are afraid to speak up and the authorities have imposed a media blackout on the protests and on the brutality of police and troops against demonstrators.