Syria Government Bias
Government Type: Republic under Authoritarian Presidential Rule
Leader: President Bashar al-Assad
Political Party: Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party
Political Position: Secular Arab nationalism, Arab socialism
World Press Freedom Rank: Syria 171/180
Reporters Without Borders ranks Syria 171st in their annual Press Freedom Index, indicating Syria as one of the most dangerous places for journalists.
Media Ownership and Government Analysis
Syria has been in turmoil since 2011. According to the Wilson Center, a timeline of main events is as follows: Syria’s uprising began in 2011, and in 2012 the USA officially recognized the opposition (Syrian National Council) as the legitimate Government. As of 2022, BBC reports that Syria’s Government, led by Pres. Bashar al-Assad, “has regained control of Syria’s biggest cities, but rebels, jihadists, and the Kurdish-led SDF still hold large parts of the country.” In addition, The Congressional Research Service states that the conflict in 2022 is a “Protracted Stalemate.” Finally, Voice of America says Syria is “one of the countries with the largest number of journalists going into exile since 2011.”
Syria consists of territories controlled by different groups, such as government and opposition-controlled regions and Kurdish-majority zones. Media Landscapes states, “What is true in one area of the country does not necessarily apply to the others.” Therefore, for this analysis, we primarily focus on Syrian government-controlled territories.
In Syria, led by President Assad, the State, directly and indirectly, affects the media. The Ministry of Information is responsible for media, press, and information. For example, the State owns and funds The Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, through the Ministry of Information. Recently, DW reports President Bashar Assad’s Government amended cybercrime laws, and “The newly amended law 20/2022 targets both online and offline criticism of the president, state and constitution.” Here is the new Cybercrime Law published by the government news agency (SANA).
As for broadcast media, TV stations are either operated by or closely affiliated with the State. Syrian TV is primarily owned and regulated by the Syrian Arab Television and Radio Broadcasting Commission (SATRBC), which the Ministry of Information controls. For example, pro-government Sama TV is a sister channel of Addounia TV, owned by President Assad’s Cousin Rami Makhlouf, while the State owns Ekhbariya TV. Finally, opposition networks broadcast from opposition-controlled territories where satellite TV is the preferred medium.
When it comes to print media, they are generally pro-government papers, including the privately-owned (Rami Makhlouf) Al-Watan (Syria) and The Syria Times (Al-Wehda which is an establishment-affiliated paper with the Ministry of Information.)
In conclusion, the State has direct and indirect control over the media in President Assad’s territory resulting in significant press freedom and censorship limitations. Generally, there is chaos and turmoil throughout the country, with more than half of its population displaced. Former U.S. General David Petraeus told NBC News in an interview, that he “likened the war in Syria to the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty,” saying that he was “not sure you can piece it back together.” To put it bluntly, Syria is one of the most dangerous and least free places for journalists due to the ongoing civil war.
Last Updated on May 18, 2022 by Media Bias Fact Check
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