Modern Day Censorship: Syria

How much do we value our freedom of speech as citizens of the United States of America? Would you risk your life to report news that might make an impact in the lives of many? Many countries around the world maintain very strict guidelines in what can be reported and broadcasted. In many countries this amount of strict censorship could even lead to you getting either tortured or killed. One modern day censored country would be the Middle Eastern country of Syria.

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Syria’s censorship problem can be attributed to the amount of legal, political, and economic environment it sustains for their people. One problem that involve the censorship of Syria concerns the legal environment that affects the life of many Syrian people. Surprisingly Article 43 of the Syrian constitution provides for freedom of the press.

In addition to Article 43, in 2011 a media law was created to obstruct a “monopoly on the media” and also guarantees the right to access information about public affairs. This new media law also bans “the arrest, questioning or searching of journalist”. Yet all of these laws are virtually nonexistent in government held areas. The problem with this law is that most of the time the government finds loopholes in order to prosecute editors in chief, journalist and spokespeople. For example, Article 4 of the Syrian Constitution say the media must “respect this freedom of expression” by “practicing it with awareness and responsibility” This in result makes it easier for the authorities in Syria to crack down on journalist if they wish to. Another problem that largely contributes to the lack of freedom of expression in Syria is the political environment. Since 2015, authorities in government held areas have continued to forcibly restrict news coverage.

It is common to hear of false statements and propaganda on state-run outlets and all media are subject to official censorship. In result of the war there has been a significant reduction of media diversity. Before the war there were several hundreds of media outlet compared to the few dozen that remain today. In addition to the limited media diversity in Syria, visas for the foreign press are absolutely restricted in government-held areas. Journalist are subject to onerous restriction on their movements and activities but are sometimes able to float them given the chaotic security situation, which weakens the government’s ability to police the media. In addition to legal and political factor, economic environment is a really important factor that contributes the lack of freedom of speech/press in Syria. In the country of Syria the government and allied businessmen own most print and broadcast outlets and tightly control editorial policy.

In opposition controlled territories there has been an increase in new printing and broadcast outlets but their financing is not really good and is composed mostly by volunteers. Rojava is the home to a number of local media outlets, including Ronahi TV, Arta FM, the newspaper Nudem and the news agency Hawar News. However, even these media outlets suffer from economic constraints, relying on volunteers and subsidies from local and foreign Kurdish benefactors. In conclusion, the situation concerning censorship in Syria is really complicated and definitely sad for the people wanting freedom of speech. In the United States of America we get exercise our right of freedom of speech almost on a daily basis while people in modern day countries like Syria fear saying something that might cost them their life. Syria’s legal, political, and economical environment restraint the people who live under the control of the Syria government to fear expressing their thoughts and ideas to the rest of us. It is very interesting to see how something so common to us like freedom of speech can be something that many people will never get the chance to experience if they live in places like Syria.

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