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Syria’s Media Crackdown: No End in Sight
Posted By Helle Dale On December 10, 2011 @ 10:00 am In Ongoing Priorities | No Comments
Syria remains a holdout in the Middle East against the forces of popular discontent. The regime of Bashar al-Assad has so far stayed in power throughout the Arab uprisings where the autocrats of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya have failed. Other regimes have been forced to make political changes. If you listen to Assad himself, in his recent—rather surreal—interview  with Barbara Walters, the reason he is still in power is the great love the Syrian people have for him. Indeed, he told Walters, so secure is he in their affections that not even alleged sabotage orchestrated by the West can topple him.
This is hardly the version you get from human rights activists. The Syrian crackdown on protesters and dissidents has been extremely brutal—and much in line with the repressive nature of the Assad regime, under both father and son. The death toll of Syrians killed during the Arab Spring uprisings, according to U.N. figures , in November stood at an estimated 3,500, but could be much higher. Some 15,000 people have been arrested, tortured, and detained. According to a new report by Reporters Without Borders, “Media as Key Witnesses and Political Pawns: Upheaval in the Arab World ,” Syria has been particularly relentless—even by Middle East standards—in its suppression of the media, persecuting local journalists and bloggers as well as driving out foreign media.
The Assad regime continues true to form in its repression of free expression, while making certain efforts (like the Walters interview) to improve its international image. Reporters Without Borders notes  that Assad did release five journalists and bloggers in November, some of whom had been arrested multiple times, as part of a release of more than 900 detainees before the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. Earlier this week, President al-Assad established a National Information Council with the purpose of regulating radio, television, and the Internet, formalizing a more sophisticated type of censorship, if you will. The Syrian regime has learned a number of lessons from the fall of other Middle Eastern autocracies and is not about to let Internet activism and mass media get out of hand.
Reporters Without Borders, as part of its report, publishes a partial list of Syrian bloggers and journalists in detention. For example, on December 4, blogger Razan Ghazzawi was detained on the Syria–Jordan border while she was on her way to Amman. Ghazzawi is a gay rights activist and also coordinates the Syrian Centre for the Media and Freedom of Expression. Ironically, she was en route to a workshop in Amman on freedom of information in the Arab world.
Two days ago, bloggers and filmmakers were hauled before the courts, and many others remain in detention. Others have been tortured, and some have died in detention.
Others on the list are:
All of these are guilty of nothing worse than informing the public about the actions of their government, and they have done so knowing the risk to their safety. They deserve continued international awareness and support, and most of all continuous pressure on the Assad regime to back down.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/12/10/syria%e2%80%99s-media-crackdown-no-end-in-sight/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://author.blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/syrian-protest-turkey-8-19-11.jpg
 interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsyQ442Xvnw
 U.N. figures: http://www.kas.de/jordanien/en/publications/29527/
 Reporters Without Borders, “Media as Key Witnesses and Political Pawns: Upheaval in the Arab World: http://en.rsf.org/bahrain-media-in-the-eye-of-the-storm-as-01-12-2011,41492.html
 notes: http://en.rsf.org/syria-arrest-of-noted-blogger-shows-no-05-12-2011,41512.html
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